In 1971, the English College of Technology and Art hosted a conference for all the overseas colleges with which it conducted student exchange programmes in international trade. From this small beginning grew the concept of an international association of bodies responsible for education and training in international trade.
It was seen that this Association would play an increasingly important role in improving the efficiency of global trade and commerce through the ongoing development of highly competent education and training programmes, from networking and an interchange of ideas as well as the encouragement of student exchange.

The following year, a second conference was held, this time hosted by The Instituto de Capacitacion de Comercio Exterior of Santiago, Chile. The idea of establishing an International Association of Institutes of Export was further explored.

In 1973, six European nations (the United Kingdom, France, West Germany, Italy, Sweden and Finland) were represented at the third conference held in Helsinki and organised by the Finnish Export Institute, FINTRA. This group resolved that: "An international association of Institutes of Export be formed,
subject to ratification by the governing bodies of the founding members".

The governing bodies of the founding members subsequently ratified the resolution and the International Association of Institutes of Export (IAIE) came into being.
The fourth conference was held in Paris in September 1974, at the invitation of the Institut de Commerce International. This event attracted considerably greater international attention than the Helsinki conference; with observers from Japan, Australia, Hungary, the GATT-UNCTAD International Trade Centre in Geneva, and from the World Trade Centre movement.

Significant decisions were taken in Paris that would give future shape and substance to the IAIE, including the co-operation of member institutions through:

  • the exchange of schedules of training programmes
  • the preparation of a chart comparing the course and seminar content of different training organisations 
  • the distribution amongst members of case studies and lists of recommended new reading on international business subjects
  • the exchange of post-graduate students 
  • the rotational hosting of IAIE conferences on an annual basis 
  • the establishment of working parties, organised geographically, to undertake specific tasks 
  • the assistance of fellow members with the preparation of case studies

Shortly after this, the IAIE's first set of objectives were formulated. They included:

a) To foster education, and advance professional standards in the field of international trade education
b) To exchange information and ideas amongst members of the Association and those engaged inbusiness education, international trade government activity in the field of international trade education and training
c) To promote co-operation amongst members of the Association that would result in the dissemination of new educational methodologies.
d) To encourage and assist research activities that would advance knowledge of international trade education practice and increase the available body of teaching material.

By 1980, the countries represented in the IAIE included:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France,  India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, UK,  USA and West Germany

In 1991, at a conference hosted by the Export Institute of Singapore, international accreditation for the qualifications being offered by member organisations was a key topic. Accreditation was seen to support one of the main IAIE objectives: "to advance professional standards in the field of international trade education". The Board was tasked with  achieving this objective and achievement in terms of this objective and the IAIE's initial international accreditation facility was launched at the end of 1992.

At the annual conference in 1994 hosted by the South African Institute of Export in Cape Town, South Africa, members voted to change the name of the association to The International Association of Trade Training Organisations (IATTO). This motion was supported because the operations of many members extended beyond exports to imports and international business operations; and the membership body had also grown to include a number of colleges and universities who were not recognised Institutes of Export. Furthermore, a number of members offered short training courses rather than lengthy education programmes.

In 1996, IATTO was incorporated as a Private Limited Company in terms of the Companies Act of England.
In 2000, an Accreditation Working Group was set up under the leadership of FINTRA and tasked with producing a more streamlined method of administering the accreditation scheme. A new formula was presented to, and unanimously accepted by IATTO members at the Istanbul Forum AGM in 2001. Since then, a considerable amount of work has been done to refine the new system which, in contrast with the previous one, now places the emphasis on the accreditation of education/ training providers rather than individual programmes/qualifications.

Today, IATTO has members across all continents and strives to meet and develop its objectives and functions.

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