ITC 60 years

    For six decades, ITC has worked with developing countries to transform their economies through trade, evolving from a technical assistance agency with a handful of staff to an all-round trade-led development agency supporting sustainable development through small businesses.

    With the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development now entering its final years, and with the world grappling with one crisis after another, this work has become more urgent than ever. There is no time to waste.

    As we prepare for the next chapter in our history, we at ITC stand ready to ramp up our efforts to make the ideal of connected, sustainable, and inclusive trade into reality, and in turn help deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.

    That is because we know, from 60 years of experience, that we will only achieve “the future we want” if the world’s small businesses are leading the way.

    About ITC Video

     ITC 60th Anniversary - Corporate Video

    Our journey of fostering trade-led growth in developing countries began 60 years ago today (1 May 1964). 

    One agency, 60 years of delivery

    • We started operations with a handful of staff in 1964 – before the first moon landing! – and are now delivering on four “moonshots”, which are high-ambition, strategic pushes to support women, youth, green trade and digital connectivity.
    • We started as a source of trade intelligence and technical assistance for developing countries… and through the decades, have evolved into an all-round trade-led development agency.
    • We are the UN small business agency. We prioritize people, planet and prosperity in our work to strengthen small businesses, paying particular attention to the needs of women, youth and members of vulnerable communities.
    • Our goal at the end of the day – no matter if we’re working at the policy or project level – is for small businesses to sell more value-added goods and services in international markets so they can earn more, create quality jobs and invest in their communities.
    • We work with partners at all levels, including entrepreneurs, policymakers, big business, international institutions and funders, to ensure all of the solutions we develop are locally owned and locally led, to ensure they deliver lasting change.
    • Our world is in crisis mode: from the COVID-19 pandemic to the impacts of climate change, the small businesses we serve are living in an increasing fragile environment. At ITC, we are working to “right the ship” for the long term, while also ensuring small businesses get the support they need right now to survive and thrive.
    • One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned over 60 years is that the current “rules of the road” don’t always reflect what small businesses actually need. That is why ITC is bringing the voices of small businesses to decision-making forums—such as the World Trade Organization ministerial conferences and the United Nations climate conferences—so policymakers can hear from them firsthand.
    • From experience comes creativity. Our six decades of hands-on support to small businesses, paired with world-class research and policy analysis, has given us the foundation we need to pivot, quickly, to new ways of working—while ensuring these are the right solutions for small businesses. Whether it’s partnering with major brands, incorporating artificial intelligence into our trainings, or engaging with a wider suite of economic sectors (such as sports and the creative industries), we’re always looking to stay ahead of the curve.

    ITC in 60 Years

    ITC begins operations

    The secretariat of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) creates the International Trade Centre (ITC), providing it with four employees and an annual budget of $50,000. ITC begins operations in Villa Le Bocage, Geneva. That same year, the first edition of Trade Forum is published.

    (c) Nestlé

    An agency for technical export expertise

    ITC is designated as the UN focal point for technical assistance and export promotion.

    (c) The New Zealand Apple and Pear Marketing Board

    Going for the millions

    ITC's annual technical cooperation programme hits $10 million for the first time.

    A new home

    ITC's new headquarters in Geneva is officially inaugurated.

    Weighting pineapple after harvest, Kenya (c) FAO

    A new era starts

    The UN Development Programme grants executive agency status to ITC.

    Producing wooden household furniture for export in Singapore (c)ITC-Rossier

    Shifting focus

    ITC shifts focus to training and capacity-building programmes.

    About ITC (video)

    Expanding its cooperation outreach

    Extra-budgetary funds from donors fuel more than 70% of ITC's annual expenditures.

    Jean-Denis Bélisle, ITC Executive Director and Pascal Lamy, WTO Director-General

    ITC's new road map

    ITC sets out a strategic 'road map' to chart new responses to a changing trade landscape, including the new World Trade Organization.

    Participants attending a session on Export Strategy

    ITC's first Executive Forum

    The first Executive Forum, later renamed World Export Development Forum, is held on "Redefining Trade Promotion".

    ITC, Malta Enterprise and Award winners standing on the podium with the awards in their hands
    Joseph Zammit Tabona, Chairman of Malta Enterprise, and ITC’s Executive Director J. Denis Bélisle presented awards to representatives from the Republic of Korea, Colombia, Jamaica and Australia at the World TPO Conference in Malta in October 2004.

    A spotlight on trade promotion organizations

    ITC launches 'best practice' awards for trade promotion organizations.

    Iraquian particpants learning Trade and Market Intelligence Tools

    Market intelligence for everyone

    ITC's online Market Analysis Tools become free for users in developing countries.

    Value Chain Transparency: understanding the Chinese market and promoting African Cotton. Field visit: African cotton suppliers visiting a Chinese company to better understand Chinese requirements for African cotton.

    ITC beats delivery record

    ITC reaches its highest annual expenditure to date, with $87 million.

    ITC Executive Director Arancha González and Amina C. Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kenya, launch the SheTrades app, Nairobi

    Important steps for the years ahead

    ITC aligns its programmes to the newly adopted UN Sustainable Development Goals; introduces its Innovation Lab; publishes its first flagship report, the SME Competitiveness Outlook; and launched its SheTrades Initiative on trade and women's economic empowerment.

    70% of total employment comes from MSMEs - MSME Day - Small business, big impact

    The first MSME Day

    The United Nations formally recognizes the importance of small businesses and ITC’s role in supporting them, designating ITC as the agency responsible for the first international Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSME) Day. The now-annual UN event shines a regular spotlight on the importance of promoting dynamic small business sectors.

    Four moonshots

    ITC launches four “moonshots” to ensure that the organization continues to set a global agenda linking small business trade to digital connectivity, gender, green and youth.


    ITC joins forces with the World Trade Organization, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and the International Chamber of Commerce for the first-ever 'Trade House' at a UN climate conference.

    Two women smiling and posing in front of a beautifully decorated cake at a celebratory event.

    Today: ITC marks 60 years

    In 2024, ITC celebrates its evolution into an all-round, trade-led development agency with global reach.

    #60Stats campaign


    1 May: ITC celebrates its official birth date – with a new corporate video.

    27 May: ITC will mark its 60th Anniversary during our participation at the 4th International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Antigua and Barbuda.

    27 June: On Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Day (MSME Day), ITC will host its official celebrations with stakeholders, staff and partners at its parent institution, the World Trade Organization, during the Ninth Aid-for-Trade Global Review. Next to a dynamic and interactive 2-hour event from 16:00 to 18:00 in the CR room, ITC will celebrate with a cocktail reception on the WTO terrace and reveal its Anniversary Publication.

    More dates and events coming soon. Watch this space!

    UN Deputy Secretary-General visits ITC

    Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed and the International Trade Centre look ahead to Summit of the Future

    The year 2024 is pivotal for ITC and the UN system: while ITC is marking 60 years in operation, the UN is preparing for the Summit of the Future in September. Together, these events are targeting a sea change in how international cooperation works in practice—one that delivers on both the Sustainable Development Goals and on the intergenerational promise of multilateralism.

    During her visit to Geneva, Mohammed met with ITC’s Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton and staff to discuss preparations for the Summit of the Future, including how ITC’s work can contribute to the Summit’s success.