Nafie Barry, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Trade Industry, Regional Integration and Employment has underscored the significance of the new Trade Facilitation Agreement (TF).
This, she said, will increase the challenge on them to put in place measures for fast and efficient customs and post procedures, improve border procedures, reduce trade cost to boost trade flows and reap maximum benefits from international trade.
PS Barry made these remarks on Tuesday while delivering a statement at a daylong meeting of Board of Directors of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF).
The Ministry of Trade Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, in partnership with the Enhance Integrated Framework (EIF) in The Gambia, on behalf of the government of The Gambia organised the meeting held at alocal hotel.
One of the main objectives of the workshop is to determine how the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement may facilitate the implementation of the convention, fostering interregional trade in West African countries, in particular transit procedures and interstate road transport, as well as identify the possible role that EIF may play in this process.
She further gave an example of the unduly complex processes and documentation, which raises costs and causes delay.
In this regard, as government in the region, it is imperative on them to continue pursuing policies and strategies that will simplify trade documentation, automate customs processes for quick clearance of goods, ensure the availability of trade related information; and as well as simplify transit formalities and procedures among others. According to her, over the years, The Gambia has made significant progress in simplifying procedural requirements for the import and export of goods. This, she said, includes the introduction of the customs Automated System for Custom Data (ASYCUDA), which will roll out to all custom major entry points, allowing online declaration of goods and clearance of goods in less than a day. "The Ministry of Trade has also set up a trade facilitation committee to serve as an avenue for addressing trade facilitation related challenges of the country," she stated, adding that the committee is very active and has been able to complete the negotiations that led to the start of the full implementation of the ISRT in The Gambia. Therefore, the Ministry would like the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to extend the work it is doing with national trade facilitation committees.
PS Barry also cited the commencement of the single window business registration facility, which has also increased efficiency and reduced the number of days spent on registering a business in the country. "The Government of The Gambia through the Ministry of Trade and other sectors will continue to work hard towards the effective implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, with a view to enhancing the total competitiveness of our transit trade and we will be seeking technical assistance from donors for both capacity-building and infrastructural development and reforms that are very relevant to trade facilitation," she assured.
Speaking earlier, Taffere Tesfachew, the director of Division on Africa, Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Special Programmes UNCTAD, spoke on the role of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). He however pointed out that, UNCTAD has been working on trade facilitation and trade efficiency trade related issues for over 40 years. Starting from late 1970s and throughout 1980s, he revealed, UNCTAD has a division devoted to addressing issues related to shipping and maritime transport in general trade facilitation and trade efficiency. "It was UNCTAD programme on trade facilitation and the expert working on trade efficiency that led-in 1994 to the adoption of the Columbus Ministerial Declaration on Trade Efficience.
"This subsequently, provided the basis for the inclusion of trade facilitation in World Trade Organization (WTO) agenda at the first WTO Ministerial conference held in Singapore in 1996. Since then Trade Facilitation has gained added visibility and began figuring prominently in the work programme of many institutions, and a various Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) eventually leading to the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation," he stated. Also speaking at the occasion was Minelik Alemu Getahun, chairperson of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), who maintained that trade facilitation has assumed paramount significance at the WTO, with intense negotiations culminating in a consensus on the agreement of trade facilitation during the ninth session of the WTO Ministerial conference held in Bali.