Facilitating trade and transit in developing countries

21 April 2023

UNCTAD training boosts the capacity of national transit coordinators, easing the flow of goods across borders and strengthening economic cooperation in Africa and Latin America.

An aerial view of the Port of Acajutla in El Salvador.
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© Shutterstock/Daniel Humberto Umana | An aerial view of the Port of Acajutla in El Salvador.

Helping trade flow as freely as possible across borders requires stronger cooperation, globally and regionally.

That’s the message from an UNCTAD event held at UN headquarters in New York on 20 April.

The event, gathering over 200 participants, concluded a month-long intensive training for 61 transit coordinators from 12 countries across Africa and Latin America.

The landmark Trade Facilitation Agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO) encourages countries to appoint a national coordinator to facilitate the movement of goods in transit while respecting specific regulations, documentation and customs requirements.

But as of April 2023, only three WTO members had officially nominated such a coordinator.

"It’s in countries’ interest to appoint coordinators and then let others know about them for better cross-border coordination," said Jan Hoffmann, head of UNCTAD’s trade logistics branch.

UNCTAD works to raise awareness of the key role transit coordinators play, while promoting regional cooperation to help countries benefit from transit facilitation measures.

Vital role of transit coordinators

Kenneth Reynaldo Pinell Solis, who participated in the training, has been serving as Nicaragua’s national transit coordinator for eight years.

But this is the first time he received training specifically tailored to his functions.  

With a background in customs, Mr. Pinell Solis aims to have goods in transit cross his country as fast as possible.

He says that as a transit coordinator his challenge is to balance the need to reduce formalities and delays while ensuring that the freedom of transit isn’t abused for smuggling and fraud.

The knowledge gained from the training will equip Mr. Pinell Solis to carry on with his high-stake responsibilities. The livelihoods of traders in Central America depend on the ability to quickly move goods to and from larger economies in the region.

Collaboration matters

The training sessions, which began in March, were delivered through UNCTAD’s trade facilitation e-learning platform, in partnership with the International Transportation Industry Chamber – a Brazil-based organization advocating for trade and transport facilitation since 2002.

These efforts are part of an UNCTAD-led programme dedicated to national transit coordinators. It provides in-person and remote capacity-building, boosting national expertise on cross-border transit challenges facing developing and least developed countries.

Solutions to the challenges that coordinators face can include measures such as implementing a multi-country transit guarantee scheme, establishing a data exchange system for transit operations, or promoting an international transport and transit corridor – all requiring closer collaboration among neighboring countries.