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Executive Forums

 

Forum on Trade Facilitation: Simpler Procedures for World Trade Growth
29-30 May 2002, United Nations Office at Geneva, Switzerland
 


in cooperation with: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Economic and Social Commission for West Asia, Economic Commission for Africa, World Trade Organization, World Customs Organization and
International Chamber of Commerce
Background
Objectives
Target audience
Why you should attend?
Expected outcome and follow up
Round Table on implementing Trade Facilitation in Transition Economies (31 May)

Trade Facilitation
Recognizing the case for further expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit, and the need for enhanced technical assistance and capacity building in this area, we agree that negotiations will take place after the Fifth Session of the Ministerial Conference on the basis of a decision to be taken, by explicit consensus, at that Session on modalities of negotiations.  In the period until the Fifth Session, the Council for Trade in Goods shall review and as appropriate, clarify and improve relevant aspects of Articles V, VIII and X of the GATT 1994 and identify the trade facilitation needs and priorities of Members, in particular developing and least-developed countries. We commit ourselves to ensuring adequate technical assistance and support for capacity building in this area.

From the Ministerial Declaration of the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference, Doha, Qatar, 9-14 November 2001, paragraph 27.

The link between trade facilitation and competitiveness in the international economy has become increasingly close. At a time of concerns about both the slowing down of the world economy and security in the movement of goods around the world, especially after the tragic events of September 2001, practical measures making international trade procedures simpler and more reliable are an urgent necessity. In response to this challenge, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), which has a long experience in developing trade facilitation instruments, will organize on 29-30 May 2002.

an International Forum on Trade Facilitation in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and all United Nations regional commissions, the secretariat of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Customs Organization (WCO), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and other organizations with an interest in trade facilitation. The objective is to provide a neutral forum in the United Nations setting, where decision-makers from industry and Governments will meet and exchange views on the possible way to advance trade facilitation in the new global environment.

The Forum will aim at a balanced representation of all regions in the world, bringing together a wide range of organizations and businesses with an interest in trade facilitation, and is expected to make an input to the multilateral trade negotiations. Speakers and participants will include government Ministers and other senior officials responsible for trade policy, customs and other relevant fields; senior decision-makers in the business community, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations; and prominent experts in trade facilitation, e-business and transport issues. Key speakers will include the Minister of Trade and Investment of the United Kingdom, the Deputy Director-General of WTO, the Secretary-General of UNCTAD and the Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce.

Forum participants are also invited to attend the plenary sessions of the Committee for Trade, Industry and Enterprise Development (CTIED) and of the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), as well as the Round Table on Implementing Trade Facilitation in Transition Economies on 31 May 2002.

The UNECE would especially like to thank the Governments of the United Kingdom and of the Netherlands and the Agence Internationale de la Francophonie for their support in making this meeting possible.

Background

Trade facilitation measures are intended to speed up the movement of goods and trade information across borders, thus bolstering economic growth, while enhancing security controls. These measures involve traders, Customs authorities, forwarders, banks, insurers and other actors engaged in international trade. Recent studies show that up to 15% of transaction costs can be saved by trade facilitation. In this context, the International Forum on Trade Facilitation will provide an opportunity for Governments, international organizations and businesses to raise practical concerns, specific to their field of activity and geographical area. They will address the specific problems of developing, transition and landlocked economies and of small and medium-sized enterprises. The Forum will contribute to broader understanding of trade facilitation, beyond purely customs or market access matters, acknowledging that various definitions of the scope of trade facilitation exist. In addition, it may address such issues as: transparency and integrity in international trade; the role of rules and codes; trade facilitation techniques in ports; harmonization of electronic data interchange standards; the contribution of trade facilitation to confidence building; and the costs and benefits of implementing trade facilitation.

In the current economic climate of slowing economic growth and increased security concerns, the need for efficient, simple and reliable international trade procedures (information flows and official controls involved in the movement of goods across borders) in an open and inclusive trading system has taken on dramatically increased importance. Parallel advances in both enhancing control efficiency and the need to further facilitate legitimate trade movements have the potential to strengthen each other for a safer and more reliable trading environment in support of global economic growth and poverty reduction. Concerns have been raised regarding the interoperability of standards and procedures and the growing gap among countries in this important area. The Forum will focus on an inter-active discussion on these issues. It will look for ways to enhance the efficiency and transparency of trade procedures and the overall climate for investment. It will assist developing and transition economies in defining priorities and needs for capacity building, and the donor community in defining steps that need to be taken. With these objectives in mind, the Forum will review the main policy implications, against the perspective of prospective multilateral trade negotiations. The background concept paper is available on the Forum web site: www.unece.org/forums It will serve as a focal point for discussion.

Objectives

The Forum is expected to define new practical measures to promote the progress of trade facilitation in the future. Innovative approaches are even more necessary in times of uncertainty to curb the negative effects of recession and increasing costs of moving goods across borders. In particular, the Forum will:

enhance the understanding of the benefits from trade facilitation for the public and private sectors, particularly:

  1. economic benefits;
  2. job creation;
  3. promoting transparency;
  4. enhanced government revenue; and
  5. improved competitiveness;

promote mechanisms for enhancing capacity building in developing and transition economies to give substance to the Doha WTO development agenda;

underline the multidimensional aspects of trade facilitation;

highlight the role of trade facilitation and its use of ICT in supporting e-business;

identify areas where new instruments, including standards, are needed;

identify opportunities of better cooperation among Governments, international organizations and the private sector;

stress the need for coordination among inter-governmental organizations to take advantage of their respective competences and make the best use of scarce resources;

suggest harmonized methods for measuring progress and “knowledge sharing” in the implementation of trade facilitation;

decide on follow-up action and implementation.

A publication containing the policy recommendations and papers produced for the Forum will be prepared.

Target audience

The Forum targets the following groups:

government policy makers;
leaders of the business community;
representatives of international and non-governmental organizations, donor agencies, national trade facilitation bodies, and trade associations;
academics and experts in trade facilitation

The Forum will encourage greater participation of developing and transition economies in the global trade facilitation debate.

Why you should attend

The expected benefits of the Forum are:

for policy makers, participate in the process of defining the practical steps to facilitate trade thus enhancing world economic growth; possibility to meet major actors in this process, gathered for the first time; and, consequently, transform the recommendations for practical steps in trade facilitation into national trade policy;
for leaders of the business community, voice their concerns in the preparation of the agenda for action in developing simpler and efficient trade procedures; meet key decision-makers in Governments with whom they deal in their business practices; interact with major players in trade facilitation; make their companies better known to the international community;
for intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, become involved in a wide, cross-sector gathering of government and business representatives, and carry out a “reality check”; progress inter-institutional cooperation in preparing the next steps of trade facilitation; promote the idea of an open and inclusive environment for trade facilitation;
for academics and experts, become part of the development of concepts and strategy for future trade facilitation.

Participants will be able to meet with experts from all over the world and discuss exciting opportunities for enhancing world trade and economic growth, become acquainted with the latest trade facilitation techniques and regulatory developments and gain insider knowledge of policy issues in trade facilitation.

Expected outcome and follow-up capacity-building plans

The Forum is expected to:

promote the implementation of necessary practical measures for trade facilitation in the future;
propose a practical United Nations initiative fostering trade facilitation around the world, focused on the next steps Governments, the business community and international organizations;
provide guidance for publishing an overview of the achievements to date in trade facilitation;
contribute to developing the political will for implementing trade facilitation in the various groups of countries;
provide input to the multilateral negotiations on trade facilitation;
contribute to the public-private partnership in trade facilitation.

Compendium of Trade Facilitation Recommendations

The UN Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) jointly developed this Compendium to be used as a key reference by those engaged in simplifying, harmonizing and rationalizing trade procedures and practices.

for further information, please contact: 

Mr.Mario Apostolov (Forum coordinator) 
UNECE Trade Division, Office 437, 
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10  Switzerland

Tel.: +41 22 9171134
Fax: +41 22 9170037

e-mail: mario.apostolov@unece.org