National trade facilitation committees have proved to be a useful instrument to establish and maintain a communication channel between government and the private sector as well as to maintain coordination among all public agencies. They are also recognized as knowledge sharing and training platforms.
Despite the increasing relevance of trade facilitation bodies, their establishment remained a merely recommendation until last year. It was not until the thirteenth Ministerial Conference held in Bali in 2013 that this recommendation became an obligation. The WTO members ended the negotiations of the Agreement on Trade Facilitation. Pursuant this Agreement, WTO members commit to set up national trade facilitation committees.
Regardless of the type of body, the biggest challenge for trade facilitation working groups is sustainability. Recent research conducted by UNCTAD has shown that there is not one determinant element (i.e. formal institutionalization of the TF body) but that many aspects can be accounted responsible for the sustainability of the group. Thus, even if there is no miraculous ingredient for ensuring the sustainability of TF bodies, there is a healthy recipe based on a series of elements that can strongly influence the effective work of the group. The pondered importance of each of those elements will depend on the bureaucratic culture of each country. However, the UNCTAD research showed that the level of development of a country is the most influential factor for a trade facilitation body. The type of body and its geographical region can also be determinant.
This Ad Hoc Experts Meeting on National Trade Facilitation Committees aims at evaluating the preliminary results of UNCTAD's latest research on the topic as well as finding answers to the following questions:
Which elements ensure the sustainability of a committee?
What can donors and international agencies do to support the sustainability of trade facilitation bodies?
Are there any specific techniques to encourage the involvement of the private sector?