It is a great
pleasure for me to welcome you today to the Workshop on Technical
Assistance and Capacity Building in Trade Facilitation.
months ago, WTO Members requested the Secretariat to organize a forum
that would allow all the relevant parties to exchange their views on
the role of technical assistance and capacity building in trade
facilitation. This request reflects two facts:
it underlines the importance Members attach to this subject. In a
radically changed multilateral trading environment with tariff
barriers gradually being reduced, governments have become increasingly
aware of the importance of addressing non-tariff barriers to global
trade. Both developed and developing countries more and more focus on
trade facilitation issues as key impediments to trade and economic
benefits of trade facilitation have been amply documented, be it in
terms of simplifying and aligning procedures and documentation
requirements, or in automating customs procedures with the ultimate
objective of helping to cut costs and accelerate delivery of goods
important than any study assessing the benefits of simplified trade
procedures is the fact that many countries are actively pursuing steps
to facilitate import and export transactions. The many national
experience papers that Members have been discussing at the Council for
Trade in Goods bear witness to Members' recognition that simplified
and more transparent trade procedures benefit traders through time and
money savings, manufacturers through cheaper and more reliable
availability of intermediate products, consumers through lower prices,
and last but not least, administrations through increased efficiency
and enhanced control effectiveness.
workshop offers a possibility to compare notes in that respect. Many
countries are facing similar challenges in reforming and modernizing
their trade administrations, and some may be in a position to offer
solutions or make recommendations.
the request to hold this workshop also reflects a second fact: Members
have become increasingly aware of the necessity to bolster trade
facilitation with comprehensive technical assistance, and to reform
and enhance administrative capacities in developing countries.
of trade procedures requires a government to turn its “customs
authority” into “customs service.” Trade facilitation has once
been called the “plumbing of trade policy,” because it is not a
particularly glamorous subject, yet contributes to the necessary
infrastructure for trade. Like other infrastructure issues, reform of
trade administration is no easy task: it poses a host of challenges
which are difficult for any government to meet. It typically involves
legislative amendments, the embracing of technological changes,
training, and outreach to the business community. At the same time,
governments need to protect revenue and suppress the entry of illicit
goods into their territories.
lot of technical assistance in this area is already being delivered.
Intergovernmental organizations like the World Bank, UNCTAD, the UN/ECE,
the IMF, the Inter-American Development Bank or World Customs Union
– to name just a few - as well as regional organizations and donors
on a bilateral basis currently execute a large number of assistance
projects with the objective to reform and modernize trade
hard work and many tangible improvements, problems remain. Take APEC,
where a set of common objectives, backed by targeted technical
assistance, is being implemented for some time. A recent APEC Business
Facilitation survey shows that business still perceives the complexity
and lack of transparency of customs procedures to be the most serious
impediment to trade in the region. There is no reason to believe that
other regions fare any better in the assessment of traders.
workshop provides a timely opportunity for donors, recipients,
international organisations and some private sector representatives to
exchange their experiences on technical assistance and capacity
building projects in trade facilitation. It will put Members in a
position to take stock of nature and scope of past and current
assistance programmes, to assess the expertise of the various
providers of technical assistance, and to develop a better
understanding of the needs of recipients.
information may be a valuable basis on which to identify the roles and
complementarities of different actors and programs, and, as
appropriate, to develop a more cooperative and coordinated approach in
am confident that both presentations and debate will contribute to a
better understanding of the issues involved and provide valuable input
for future work.
wish you a successful workshop