UNCTAD and the World Bank have just issued jointly proposals for improving transport and other trade-related services in order to enhance a country´s competitiveness in international trade. The publication, entitled Review of Current Issues and Operational Experiences in the Field of Trade and Transport Facilitation (127 pages), focusses on Africa and draws on relevant analytical and operational work undertaken by the two international institutions.
The Review proposes ways and means of increasing the quality and reducing the costs of international transport. Other proposals aim at reducing transaction costs, adapting commercial practices to international standards, and removing unnecessary trade barriers.
The coherent implementation of these concepts constitute a trade and transport facilitation programme covering the systematic rationalization of procedures, information flows and documentation related to a country´s trade and transport. Whereas efficient transport modes and interfaces are necessary for improving international transport operations, governments and commercial parties must appreciate the benefits derived from the implementation of facilitation measures.
Experience in Bank and UNCTAD projects shows that enhancing the competitiveness of domestic producers and traders in local and export markets requires an environment in which producers, traders and consumers can interact effectively. Evolving demands in the local and international markets for different goods and services must be addressed through appropriate adjustments in production programmes, marketing arrangements and pricing provisions. In addition, national service industries must have the capacity to meet the changing demand for logistical support of the revised production and marketing strategies.
Annex 1 of the Review provides a checklist of potential problem areas in transport and trade procedures in a given country and suggests remedial action. Annex 2 sets out the terms of reference of a "National Trade and Transport Facilitation Committee" which can be set up to encourage the modernisation of transport practices and technology in support of the international trade of the country.
This publication is the result of increasing levels of cooperation between the World Bank and UNCTAD, and highlights their joint work in trade and transport facilitation. UNCTAD has been contributing to the improvement of transport and trade procedures, through its multimodal transport programme and Advance Cargo Information System (ACIS), its trade facilitation programme and Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), its activities in favour of landlocked countries and Trade Points.
The Review complements the UNCTAD Multimodal Transport Handbook for Practitioners to be published shortly. This Handbook is intended as a reference document for all those involved in modern multimodal transport, whether from governments or from the private sector as transport providers and transport users. It offers a non-exhaustive list of issues regarding the improvement of the performance of transport operators and auxiliary services, with the commercial behaviour of users and with the relations between public institutions and transport providers and users.
As decided at UNCTAD IX, work on issues relating to trade and transport logistics will be pursued within the new UNCTAD Division for Services Infrastructure for Development and Trade Efficiency.