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UNCTAD tasks developing nations on trade-easing reforms

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UNCTAD Secretary-General, Mukhisa Kituyi

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has charged developing countries on deploying reforms that eases trade, noting that nearly 60 countries have prepared the ground to cut red tape and streamline revenue collection this year since the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) entered into force in February 2017.

The Trade Facilitation Agreement commits World Trade Organization members to streamlining cross-border trade, but reforms can go further, UNCTAD report says.

The TFA obligates most of the world’s trading nations to recognize trade-easing measures in international law and so reduce the loss to developing countries of billions of dollars that lengthy waiting time, ungathered income and spoiled goods can cause.

UNCTAD estimates that the cost of cross-border trade for developing countries is on average 1.8 times higher than for developed countries.

“Article 23.2 of the TFA stipulates the obligation for countries to set up or maintain a coordination mechanism that will support the implementation of the trade facilitation provisions included in the agreement,” UNCTAD trade facilitation specialist and main author of the study Arántzazu Sánchez said.

“The inclusion of this article represents an official acknowledgement of the importance of coordination and cooperation among relevant stakeholders, including customs authorities and businesses trading across borders, in making trade facilitation reforms happen,” she added.

While the inclusion of trade facilitation committees in a WTO agreement is a novelty, in reality these kinds of bodies have existed for more than six decades, Ms. Sánchez said.

Among other findings, the report concludes that National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs) should work beyond compliance with the TFA, and that reforms should not end once its provisions are in place.

“By defining a broad scope of action from the beginning, NTFCs will remain flexible to promptly adapt to changes that new regional and international agreements and priorities might bring in the future,” Ms. Sánchez said.

Providing quantitative and qualitative analysis of existing NTFCs, the report also presents, for the first-time, data on women’s participation in National Trade Facilitation Committees as part of UNCTAD’s ongoing work on trade and gender mainstreaming.

In addition, the report includes a discussion on the basic structure of the NTFCs around the world such as their composition, level of institutionalization, sources of finance, frequency of meetings and modes of communication. It also discusses the factors that can ensure the successful functioning of NTFCs, and the obstacles that they face in their work.


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