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Pacific island countries meet to assess trade facilitation needs

Tonga Daily News:

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in partnership with the World Trade Organization (WTO) is hosting a four-day workshop on the new multilateral Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) from 12 to 15 May in Nadi, Fiji.

The workshop will enable Pacific island Members to better understand the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and update their Trade Facilitation Needs Assessments, including planning the implementation of their commitments to facilitate trade.

“This workshop will allow participants to reach a full understanding of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, and engage with international technical agencies and development partners that provide technical and capacity building assistance in the area of trade facilitation,” says Shiu Raj, Director of the Economic Governance Programme at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. “The workshop will build on the needs assessments undertaken by the Pacific island Members of the WTO in 2013 as Members prepared for the finalisation of the Agreement.”

Jointly funded by the WTO Secretariat, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the European Union, the workshop will prepare the Pacific islands WTO members for the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.

“The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the WTO have in place a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate in supporting the Pacific island countries in building their trade-related capacity. The two agencies have agreed to coordinate training and technical assistance activities at the regional level to assist Forum Island Countries enhance their institutional and human capacity in the field of trade,” Mr Raj said.

Other Forum Island Countries will also be attending as observers to gain an understanding of the Agreement and organise their trade facilitation needs.

The Trade Facilitation Agreement seeks to make customs procedures simpler, reducing the barriers to cross-border movement of goods among the WTO member countries.
“This would greatly facilitate access of Pacific exports into the global market as well serve to facilitate regional trade amongst the Pacific island countries,” Director Shiu Raj added.

Several regional and international organisations and development partners including the Oceania Customs Organisation, Office of the Chief Trade Adviser, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP), University of the South Pacific, World Customs Organisation, World Bank, the WTO Secretariat, including the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) Executive Secretariat, are participating in the workshop.

The Pacific island countries are represented by senior officials for customs, trade, legal, quarantine, other border agencies, and private sector representatives.

The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) was endorsed at the 9th World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia in 2013.

The TFA was a result of years of intensive negotiations among the 157 WTO Members to address the Members’ concerns on the ‘red tape’ that continues to impeded the smooth flow of goods across borders.

In December 2013, the Director General of the WTO, Mr. Roberto Avèzedo declared that the TFA will inject 17 Trillion dollars into the global economy. The TFA was a new issue that was added in the multilateral trade negotiations in the Singapore Ministerial Conference in 1996. WTO Members were able to agree on the TFA, while three core elements of the Doha round of negotiations, which include; Agriculture, Services and Non-Agriculture Market access (NAMA) still remain on the table for members to conclude.

Unlike other existing WTO Agreements, the TFA has special implementation requirements that allow developing and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to implement their obligations and commitments based on their individual capacity to do so. This is an innovative aspect of the Agreement. Developing and LDCs can designate their implementation commitments under three different categories; A, B and C. Under Category A, Members indicate measures that they can implement on entry into force with their existing capacity. Category B, are those commitments which they can implement over a timeframe with their own capacity. Category C are those commitments where developing and LDCs Members require technical, financial and capacity building assistance from the donor partners and developed countries to assist them in implementing the measures. Developing and LDCs can also shift category B to C if they are not able to implement them on their own.

At the workshop, the Pacific WTO Members will be seeking to finalise their needs assessment and categorisation of their commitments under the Agreement, for final consultations at the national level. They will also have the opportunity to hear from the development partners on the type of assistance they are providing to help them implement their Trade Facilitation Commitments under Category C. The outcomes of their needs assessment and proposed categories of implementation commitments will then be taken back to capitals for the consideration of their respective governments before notification to the WTO.

Read story: Tonga Daily News

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