14 April 2014

Africa: U.S. Officials Working to Help Developing Nations Boost Trade

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Washington — U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah met April 11 with government ministers, development bank officials, and other representatives to discuss donor efforts to help developing countries implement the new World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement, and ensure coordination among donors.

"We will continue to work with other donors and with WTO members to help developing countries fully implement the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, so that all traders can benefit from the reduction in customs costs, delays and other obstacles to the flow of goods which will result from its implementation," Froman said.

Shah said, "Today's meeting offered donors a chance to share best practices and updates about the ways they are empowering developing-country businesses, small and large, to participate in and benefit from expanded trade opportunities. Through better coordination, we can help promote development and new economic opportunities for the world's most vulnerable people."

Tackling inefficiencies and shortening delays in clearing goods can reduce the cost of getting goods to market by up to 15 percent, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, with positive effects on competitiveness and consumer welfare.

Donor efforts are already contributing to developing countries implementing broad-based customs reforms under the WTO agreement, USTR said. The April 11 meeting provided an opportunity for donor institutions to share information on the broad range of trade capacity-building projects that are already in place and to discuss donor coordination in the future to ensure full implementation of the agreement, USTR said in a summary of the meeting.

Ministers concluded negotiations on the Trade Facilitation Agreement at the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia, in December 2013. It creates binding commitments across 160 WTO members to expedite movement, release and clearance of goods, improve cooperation among WTO members on customs matters, and help developing countries fully implement the obligations.

The agreement, USTR said, will increase customs efficiency and effective collection of revenue, and help small businesses access new export opportunities through measures like increased transparency in customs practices, reduction of documentary requirements, and processing of documents before goods arrive.

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