ESCAP’s AI-powered Trade Intelligence and Negotiation Adviser (TINA) is designed to make trade more inclusive and rectify informational asymmetries.
The UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has developed a software that gives countries advice for negotiating trade deals.
Launched on January 21, the Trade Intelligence and Negotiation Adviser (TINA) is designed to assist ESCAP member states to negotiate trade agreements and enhance trade in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Conceived in 2018, TINA was developed in consultation with current and former members of trade negotiation teams across the Asia-Pacific region using state of the art methodologies.
Among its features, TINA provides insight on current tariffs and non-tariff measures (NTMs), current trade agreements, extensive overviews of bilateral trade flows, and serves to identify key commodities to negotiate better tariffs.
On the TINA website, users can pick a country to negotiate with, which will then analyse feasible agreements and trade data between two countries. It can suggest what to negotiate on – for example, what products a country can remove tariffs on.
Emerging digital tools like TINA could be a “possible equaliser” in terms of a trade negotiation team’s capacity and preparedness, Mia Mikic, former Director of Trade, Investment and Innovation Division at ESCAP, told TRT World. Mikic is now Advisor at Large at Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade (ARTNeT), an open network of research and academic institutions and think tanks in the region.
Negotiating trade deals are not easy, requiring extensive preparation and advanced analytical skills to be effective. Developed nations often have teams and think tanks dedicated to support negotiations.
For those countries with resource constraints and less negotiating experience at their disposal, TINA could be a game changer by allowing them to automate a substantial amount of the calculations and research needed to effectively prepare and build negotiating capacity.
“Many of the intense tasks undertaken for trade liberalization negotiations require specialized analytical and data management skills are time-consuming when performed manually. TINA automates many of such tasks, enabling countries with limited resources to benefit from the same level of preparation as those afforded to teams of larger economies,” ESCAP said in a statement.
Now on version 3.0, TINA offers “a trade agreement text analysis module as a well as partial equilibrium impact assessments for tariff liberalization, least developed country status graduation, and tariff preference loss scenarios.”
“One of the most promising features of TINA 3.0 is its stated ability to use the partial equilibrium model to identify the most affected sector(s) of an economy when it graduates out of the least developed country status. This software promises to help the planners and policy makers understand the overall impact on the graduating economy. It may be of great use to Bangladesh at this stage,” said Dr Md. Jafar Uddin, Secretary at the Bangladesh Ministry of Commerce.
At the moment, Bangladesh is currently using the tool to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India.
Mikic believes that TINA has helped Bangladeshi officials to “close the distance” between their counterparts in FTA negotiations at the level of preparedness, given them “the confidence to use liberalisation of trade as a developmental tool” and to “proactively seek new FTA opportunities”.
“With further modeling, it might also provide more insights on possible losses from the liberalization and what will be especially beneficial as this aspect of liberalisation is often overlooked, deliberately or not,” she added.
While it is premature to say the extent to which AI will have a transformative impact on global trade, Mikic believes that frontier technologies will affect trade in various ways: not only by making its facilitation smoother, faster and cheaper, but through additive manufacturing (cutting costs in transport, holding stocks and reducing waste), labour-saving technology via automation and robotics, and allowing better allocation of skilled labour.
With the global trading landscape rapidly evolving and new areas of trade-related agreements emerging like those around climate change and SDG issues, TINA highlights how digital technologies are being used to support and facilitate policies involving trade and investment activity.
Designed with trade negotiators in mind, the platform is not only a major breakthrough for policy makers but for collating evidence-based strategising and trade policy research.
Former trade negotiator Pierre Sauve, now a senior trade specialist at the World Bank, effusively sung TINA’s praises.
“Even in my home country Canada, with sophisticated capacities and statistical agencies with a lot of data, we struggled to generate the kind of information that TINA is able to produce with only a few clicks. It’s a remarkable achievement in facilitating trade policy analysis,” Sauve said in a webinar during TINA’s January launch, describing it as “the penultimate trade facilitation instrument.”
“This is a very important moment in informational justice, in providing a means of rectifying information asymmetries.”
Sauve added that the next challenge for TINA 4.0 will be one of scaling up to achieve global adoption.