Business wants Doha Round accord on trade facilitation

  • 15 April 2003

The International Chamber of Commerce today called for a far-reaching agreement on trade facilitation to be included in the Doha Development Round being negotiated by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

ICC, representing some 8,000 companies and business associations around the globe, said there was huge scope for improving the efficiency of the international trade process and this would benefit every WTO member country.

“A trade facilitation agreement is fundamental to the establishment of an improved and more efficient management process for international trade in goods on a global basis,” a statement on behalf of world business distributed to the 146 WTO member governments said.

“Binding commitments are essential because only the WTO can ensure the political support required for durable improvements in global trade facilitation.”

The ICC said there was also “a compelling need” to improve customs efficiency to deal with emerging and p otentially costly new areas of control, such as security and agricultural goods.

When the Doha Round was launched in November 2001, the WTO governments agreed that trade facilitation should be considered for a WTO rules-based agreement, but fell short of making such an agreement an objective for the negotiations.

The ICC statement said: “Trade facilitation is not just a matter of improving customs procedures, but should also target the growing range of controls being implemented at national borders by other authorities.

“Procedures associated with agricultural products and security are just two areas where many new controls are being implemented and where it is imperative that a rational, transparent and standardized approach be adopted.”

Measurement of release times for goods was one of the main ICC proposals, which the statement said would quantify improvements and help to ensure that more effective border provisions could be maintained.

The ICC trade facilitation experts pointed out that, with more international transactions spanning several countries, it was not only the exporting and importing countries that were involved, but also other territories through which goods passed.

“An important role for an International Trade Facilitation Agreement (ITFA) will be to define the responsibilities of governments involved in complex transactions covering export, transit, and final import of goods,” ICC said.

The statement said the “bottom line” for WTO member governments would be increased trade and foreign direct investment, greater competitiveness, reduced costs and enhanced government revenues.

The main potential beneficiaries were the developing countries, since they offered the biggest potential for improvement in trade facilitation. “An IFTA will augment the capacity of developing countries to handle and grow their share of international trade, not least trade with other developing countries,” the statement said.

It said that an agreement should take into account the state of development of some WTO countries and their ability to implement it. “In such cases, it may be necessary to make appropriate accommodation both in transition time and support.” Capacity building for those countries unable to finance improved border management was essential, the statement added.