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WTO Members share experiences on National Trade Facilitation Committees

Representatives from more than 150 countries participated in a workshop to share their experiences on setting up and maintaining national trade facilitation committees, a requirement under the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).  Experts from more than 20 countries and 5 international organizations made presentations at the 8 June workshop (see programme below to access all presentations and Chairman's remarks). This was the first experience sharing session at the WTO to discuss how best to implement specific commitments under the TFA.

Although the requirements of the TFA are relatively straightforward, and guidelines have been developed by several international organizations and other donors, some WTO members have found it difficult to determine how best to structure a national committee and to identify the key issues that need to be taken into account.  A survey conducted by the WTO Secretariat confirmed that considerable work is being done by Members in this area. The preliminary results of this survey are available here  

"We have been registering a significant amount of attention on the issue of national TF committees – and demand for related guidance - for a considerable amount of time," Ambassador Esteban Conejos  of the Philippines, the Chairman of the WTO's Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation (PCTF), told participants.  "What was meant to be a pretty straightforward provision in the Trade Facilitation Agreement…proved to raise several questions when faced with the task of implementing it on the ground."

The officials came from Albania, Botswana, Brazil, Costa Rica, Fiji,Ghana, Guyana, Jamaica, Lao PDR, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sweden, Tajikistan, Uganda, Vanuatu, and Viet Nam. Most of these members already have national trade facilitation committees in place or are in the process of setting it up.

A common theme which emerged from the interventions was the importance of private sector involvement in the establishment and work of the national committees, particularly representatives from small and medium-sized enterprises, as business is directly affected by the customs bottlenecks and red tape which the TFA seeks to address.  Several speakers said the participation of the private sector was often the most critical factor in determining the success or failure of national committees.

Another common theme was the need for coordination between government ministries and agencies with a role in TFA implementation.  Speakers cited the importance of sustained engagement by all public bodies involved with implementation efforts, sufficient coordination among agencies,  and the need for support at the highest levels of government to ensure the effectiveness

Summing up the discussions, Amb. Conejos said that while Members often face common challenges, they have chosen different ways of approaching the task of establishing or maintaining a national committee – "and for good reason, as one size will never fit all."

Nevertheless, the experiences of Members so far shows that "having clear and measurable tasks, achieving early results to show that the committee can deliver, as well as securing consistent engagement and high political support emerged as important conditions for a committee to well perform its role," he said.  "An inclusive approach to committee composition, allowing all stakeholders - including different stake holders in the private sector - to take part, appears to be an important success factor as well."

PROGRAMME

10.00 – 10.15

Opening remarks

Amb. Esteban B. Conejos  Opening remarks

10.15 – 11.15

Session 1: Mandate of the National Committee and areas of work

The TFA foresees that a National Committee should facilitate the domestic coordination and implementation of the provisions of the TFA. What does this cover (and what not)? Should it also have other functions in its terms of reference? If so, which ones?

  • Mr. Jim Williams (World Bank) 
  • Mr. Poul Hansen (UNCTAD)  Presentation
11.15 - 13.00

Session 2: Defining an institutional framework

Possible elements for discussion include:

  • Who should be part of the National Committee?
  • Who should lead/chair the National Committee? 
  • What should be the role of the private sector?
  • How should the interests of Small and Medium Size Enterprises be taken into account?
  • Should there be a formal law or decree setting up the National Committee or should it be based on informal coordination?
  • What should be the organizational structure (e.g. centralized or with working groups/task forces? How many levels?, etc.)
  • Should there be provisions for financing of the Committee? If so, what are the best practices?
  • What is the recommended frequency of meetings?
  • Relationship with relevant regional integration efforts

 _____________

  • Mr. Mario Apostolov (UNECE)  Presentation
  • Dr. Mohammad Saeed (ITC) 
13.00 - 15.00 Lunch break
15.00 - 16.00

Session 3: Strategies for defining a roadmap for the National Committee?

Possible elements for discussion include:

  • How should the goals and priorities of the National Committee be established?
  • How to prioritize and identify deliverables?
  • Sequencing vs. parallel tracks
  • Should there be explicit rules for the measurement of progress?
  • Best practices for following-up and adapting; accountability
  • Is a communication strategy necessary?

 _____________

  • Mr. Anthony Kwasi Nyame-Baafi (Ghana)  Presentation
  • Mr. Hernán Gabriel Muñoz Pérez (Paraguay)  Presentation 
  • Mr. John Brian Sam (Papua New Guinea) 
  • Mr. Dilshod Sharifi (Tajikistan)  - Presentation
16.00 - 17.00

Session 4: How to ensure the proper functioning and long-term adaptability of the National Committee

Possible elements of discussion include:

  • How to ensure the proper functioning over time of the National Committee?
  • How to secure long term political support?
  • How to deal with the rotation and replacement of representatives to the National Committee?
  • What are the common success factors and what the most frequent challenges faced?

 _____________

  • Ms Ana B. Hinojosa (WCO) 
  • Mr. Jim Williams (World Bank) 
  • Mr. Bismark Sitorus (UNCTAD)  Presentation
17.00-17.45

Session 5:  Obtaining assistance to establish or maintain a National Committee on Trade Facilitation

Possible elements for discussion include:

  • What types of assistance are available?
  • Are there lessons to be drawn from Members' experiences?

 _____________

17.45 - 18.00

Concluding remarks

Amb. Esteban B. Conejos  Concluding remarks

 

 

WTO Secretariat Preliminary results of e-Survey on National Committees on Trade Facilitation