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B.        Characteristics of effective institutional arrangements

5.5.            Key characteristics of effective institutional arrangements. Depending on the country’s legal framework, the structure of its government, available resources and other considerations, various institutional arrangements might exist and result in acceptable trade statistics. At the same time not all types of such arrangements are equally effective. In this connection, IMTS 2010 (para. 8.16), identifies several key characteristics of  effective institutional arrangements, namely:

(a)   Designation of only one agency responsible for the dissemination of official trade statistics;

(b)   A clear definition of the roles and responsibilities of all agencies involved;

(c)   Establishment of formalized working arrangements between the involved agencies, including agreements on holding inter-agency working meetings, as needed, and on the access to microdata collected by those agencies.

5.6.            The responsible agency. It is good practice for the agency designated to be responsible for the compilation and dissemination of official trade statistics to be given the necessary authority and responsibility for monitoring and coordinating various aspects of the whole statistical process. The establishment of such an agency is also essential from the user perspective, as it reflects a clear designation of a single source of official data and contact point for any enquiries. This raises the confidence of users in the quality of the statistics and promotes its wide and effective use. In particular, it is good practice for this agency to be responsible for:

(a)   The specification and implementation of the appropriate methodology for the compilation of the country’s trade statistics in accordance with the internationally adopted standards and best practices;

(b)   The development and the implementation of the appropriate inter-agency data compilation arrangements;

(c)   The dissemination of the official trade statistics to users both domestically and internationally;

(d)   Serving as focal point for consultation with trading partners on data reconciliation and data exchange and the representation of the country at various regional and international forums dealing with foreign trade statistics.

5.7.            Rights and responsibilities of the involved agencies. It is good practice to ensure that the collective responsibilities of the agencies involved in the compilation of trade statistics cover all elements of the statistical process and are distributed in a manner that leads to the most effective use of the available resources and to high-quality data. The definition of the rights and responsibilities of all involved agencies should be unambiguous in order to minimize misunderstandings that might lead to a duplication of work or lack of attention to certain tasks.

5.8.            Formalized arrangements between the involved agencies (memorandum of understanding). It is good practice to ensure that the establishment of formalized arrangements between the agencies involved in the compilation of international merchandise trade statistics is documented through appropriate means such as a memorandum of understanding (MoU), which would, inter alia, include provisions for holding inter-agency working meetings and for accessing microdata collected by those agencies. In this connection, it is recognized that the content of any MoU will have certain limitations imposed by the applicable national legislation (due, for example, to the stipulation that the rules of inter-agency cooperation should be written in such a way as not to risk the disclosure of confidential information). It is good practice for the MoU to be worked out (under appropriate delegated authority) and signed by the appropriate units of the larger governmental agencies so as to facilitate their effective cooperation.[3] The formal arrangements should be complemented by the informal working agreements between the relevant units of the involved agencies to ensure the effective implementation of the agreements.

5.9.            Contents of a memorandum of understanding (MoU). In general, a good MoU would contain:

(a)   A preamble describing reasons for its establishment;

(b)   A mission statement defining the  scope and overall purpose of the MoU;

(c)   An outline of a long-term work programme, a commitment to develop and implement midterm (e.g., biannual or annual) action plans designed to achieve the work programme’s objectives (see sect. E for details) and a cost-sharing agreement;

(d)   A list of participating agencies together with a clear description of their rights and responsibilities in the context of the agreed work programme, covering data collection, data transmission, data compilation, treatment of confidentiality, data quality, metadata and dissemination as well as methodological improvements (e.g., development of a national commodity classification, elaboration of methods of statistical valuation, etc.);

(e)    The terms of reference and rules of procedure of the interagency body responsible for monitoring MoU implementation (e.g., a permanent committee);

(f)    The terms of the MoU, including its effective date.


[3]  For example, the national statistical office might sign the MoU not with the national customs authority as a whole, but rather with its statistical unit which can result in the establishment of more effective working arrangements, as such a unit may be dependent, to some degree, on the national statistical office regarding statistical methodology and will benefit from the closer cooperation with the national statistical office.