LDC Global Forum panel discusses what the Trade Facilitation Agreement means for LDCs
On 13-14 June, representatives from 42 least-developed countries (LDCs) convened at the WTO to attend the first Global Forum on Inclusive Trade for LDCs. The forum focused on ways to further integrate the world’s poorest countries into the multilateral trading system. The event was organized by the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), a programme dedicated to addressing the trade capacity needs of LDCs.
In his opening video address, DG Azevêdo stated 'This event is exclusively dedicated to achieving inclusive trade in LDCs – and therefore it could not be more important. Our aim here is to ensure that more and more people benefit from international trade – especially in LDCs"
In a session titled 'The Trade Facilitation Agreement: What does it mean for LDC's?', trade facilitation experts reflected on the benefits and challenges of implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), the necessary conditions needed to ensure the agreement's implementation and success through technical assistance and capacity development support.
Moderated by TFAF's Sheri Rosenow, who began the session with an overview of the TFA, the session featured speakers from government, private sector, and development partners from Asia and Africa including:
Carlos Grau Tanner, Director General of the Global Express Association (GEA) representing the three leading express delivery carriers (DHL Express, FedEx Express/TNT and UPS) Tanner focused on how improving trade facilitation would further boost the growth of South-South and South-North trade lanes
Steven Pope, Vice President Customs and Regulatory Affairs, Europe for DHL, outlined the need to facilitate trade to reduce costs for governments and traders, to offer certainty and a level playing field and to enhance volume of exports. He commented on e-commerce as an engine for growth for SME's and emphasized the importance of private sector involvement in trade facilitation implementation.
Yann Duval, Chief of Trade Policy and Facilitation at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP), reported on a recent survey on trade facilitation and paperless trade implementation in Asia, which showed that trade cost reductions almost double if the trade facilitation agreement is implemented in full. Among Duval's key messages was the importance of using NTFC's to address trade facilitation in a holistic manner and closely monitoring implementation and performance.
Richard Kamajugo, who is Senior Director, Trade environment at TradeMark East Africa, Kamajugo hailed the benefits of automated trade processes, improved border management and reduced trade barriers as it pertains to the EAC. He gave examples of several success stories showing that the reduction of trade barriers can reduce processing time from several weeks to several days.
And finally, Lillian Bwalya, Director of Foreign Trade at the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry in Zambia shared Zambia's experience in leveraging finances to implement trade facilitation agreement measures. In her presentation Ms Bwalya stressed the importance of ratifying the TFA, and notifying implementation assistance needs (through the so-called A, B, C notifications); and bringing donors to the table to identify who can fill these needs.
Key themes that arose in most of the session's presentations are the fact that implementing the TFA does reduce time and cost and results in benefits for governments, traders and consumers. To achieve these results it is crucial to have political will, a strong partnership with private sector, and a well-functioning national trade facilitation committee to oversee implementation and donor support.