A Department of Trade and Industry is often tasked with improving a nation's economy through marketing, consumer protection, and corporate regulation. This type of national government agency can also lobby for adjustments to import tariffs and product regulations in legislative bodies. It often boosts entrepreneurship within a region using small business grants and tax incentives authorized by the legislature. As of January 2011, the Philippines and South Africa were the only nations in the world with this department. The aforementioned responsibilities are divided by other nations into separate departments dealing with commerce, law enforcement, and labor protection.
Officials with the Department of Trade and Industry in the Philippines focus largely on attracting tourists and foreign investors. This department was created in 1987 to eliminate inefficiencies between separate departments dealing with the nation’s economic issues. Previous governments dating back to 1947 bogged down the Department of Commerce and Industry with dozens of subcommittees and bureaus covering all aspects of economic health. The national government works with the agency to create advertisements that appeal to travelers in Asia, Australia, and Europe. Its additional responsibilities include working with neighboring nations to reduce tariffs and restrictions on exports.
In South Africa, this department has a more expansive portfolio than its Filipino counterpart. It works with other agencies to coordinate economic empowerment programs that help farmers and entrepreneurs achieve economic self-sufficiency. Departmental officials work with intellectual property lawyers to register trademarks, copyrights, and patents for domestic businesses. Consumers throughout South Africa have access to consumer education and protection tools through the nation’s Department of Trade and Industry. The national government works with the department to create regulations on labor conditions and corporate responsibility.
The now-defunct department in the United Kingdom offered an example of a broad mandate for this type of agency. Conservative and Labor Party governments between 1970 and 2007 added new responsibilities to the department depending on national economic trends. Initial responsibilities for the agency included grant programs for each region of the country and oversight of worker’s rights laws. It took over responsibility for the region’s energy policy starting in 1992. This department also oversaw national government investments made in research laboratories to improve products ranging from automobiles to computers.