Trade Point Federation website
pleased to be with you today and to speak on behalf of the WTO.
I have the very strong impression that all of us here today are In a
certain sense “friends of trade facilitation” and the various
organisations that we represent are strongly in favour of the
approach, even if we pursue it in our different ways. We all
want to simplify trade transactions, to reduce the complexity that
arises when import procedures are different in one country from
another, to lower transaction costs, and to assist especially
exporters from developing countries to be able to find their way
through the maze of government regulations as painlessly as possible.
would like to tell you briefly what the WTO is doing in this field.
Most of you will know that a new multilateral trade negotiation was
launched last year in Doha, and that one of its principal elements is
to give a much stronger Development dimension to our normal work of
trade liberalisation and rule-making. Going on from that, you
may also know that in Doha a certain number of specific negotiating
mandates were agreed (agriculture, other market access, trade in
services to name the main ones) and that these are being actively
pursued with a view to mid-term review in Cancun next September.
may also be aware that a number of other issues were extensively
debated in Doha without, at that moment, having a specific mandate
agreed. Trade facilitation is one of these issues, together with
matters relating to Investment and to Competition policy.
However, while some of these matters remain highly controversial among
WTO members, I believe it can be said that members are all broadly
supportive of the general aims of the trade facilitation agenda.
There is therefore a reasonably good chance that in Cancun we can move
forward to agree upon a negotiating mandate, provided of course that
the game of linkages (one sector being made conditional on progress or
agreement in another) does not raise external obstacles to the pursuit
of what are clearly common objectives.
may appear to be rather an optimistic view, and to go further on the
basis of this assessment is of course a risky business. Words
and phrases such as 'imminent gridlock', 'missed deadlines',
negative conditionality (“I am not going to show my negotiating hand
until you have shown me yours”) are becoming common currency.
But let me mention one idea, since it runs in parallel to the Trade
the discussions on trade facilitation members are increasingly
interested in the idea that enquiry points or trade desks would be
established within each member's administration, to assist in the
implementation of any rules to be agreed. These would serve,
much as do the existing ones in the area of TBT or SPS, as a central
point to which governments and traders could address enquiries and
seek information about the various import procedures covered by the
agreement. As such they would be a useful tool to ensure that
the rules are indeed satisfactorily implemented.
see this — if in fact it were to come about — as in no sense a
rival concept to Trade Points. Rather, it is a case of “imitation
is the sincerest form of flattery”: the WTO members will no doubt be
happy to build on the experience that their governments have already
gained through the Trade Point system, in enhancing transparency as
well providing information with the aim of improving access to
markets. But these are truly complementary concepts: the present
WTO enquiry points are narrowly related to a specific agreement and to
its requirements, whereas Trade Points operate over a wider range of
general information about policy requirements and availability of
technologies to help bring products to markets.