By Sofia Aiche, Project officer at International Federation of Freight Forwarders Association - FIATA [Article No. 106 [UNCTAD Transport and Trade Facilitation Newsletter N°98 - Second Quarter 2023]
Photo: Cecilie-Arcurs from Getty images
The new guidance for freight forwarders to familiarise themselves with the terms of the WTO-TFA is finally out. It presents a set of best practices, tools and tips for the industry to encourage a better participation in existing forums.
The Advisory Body on International Affairs (ABIA) has been working to support members of the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) in their efforts to implement the World Trade Organization-Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTO-TFA). The TFA, a binding agreement between WTO member states, is aimed at reducing trade barriers and simplifying border procedures, with a focus on empowering small and medium-sized businesses. While the private sector needs to proactively engage in the process, it is equally important for freight forwarders to remain involved in tracking the activities of the National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs) to make their voice heard and take advantage of the incentives available to reduce red tape.
The survey conducted by FIATA to explore the awareness of the NTFCs among the freight forwarding community worldwide and assess how it could support in increasing engagement to implement the WTO-TFA was an important step forward. The results of the survey highlighted that interviewed FIATA Association members were mostly satisfied with their interactions with their respective NTFCs. However, there were some suggestions for improvement, such as discussing more accurate topics, having more formal working groups, and re-starting NTFC meetings that may have been disrupted by the pandemic.
Among the 45 respondents, six Association members had no interaction with the NTFC, with some citing reasons such as not perceiving their country as a direct beneficiary or having alternative channels for engagement. This highlights the need for greater awareness and education on the importance of NTFC engagement in the implementation of the WTO-TFA. The respondents provided additional insights on the implementation of the WTO-TFA, such as calling for more private sector involvement, deeper engagement from stakeholders, a better-shaped agenda, and improved customs bureaucracy. Association members who replied that there was no NTFC in their country were in favour of support from FIATA to raise awareness with their national authorities.
To provide a deeper understanding of the issue at hand, interviews with relevant actors have been conducted. Involving both the private and public sector in the discussion, the interviews highlight both the technical and operational level with a number of best practices and guidance shared to build the capacity of FIATA members to participate effectively and obtain results from state agencies via the NTFCs. FIATA has attempted to collate views from its Association members across various regions to present the grassroots level picture and from international organisations (CIPE, ITC, UNCTAD, WTO) to present a bird's eye view of the purpose and impact of the TFA.
The paper also displays several tools that could be used by association members to better understand the agreement, engage with their NTFCs and better organise the projects presented in such committees. The guidance is an important step forward in ensuring that the implementation of the WTO-TFA is successful, as it highlights the importance of trade facilitation and the role of both the public and private sectors in its success. It emphasises the proper functioning of NTFCs and the importance of private sector participation in providing valuable insights into policy operations to ensure they respond to the needs of the industry.
Both the public and private sectors must work collaboratively to ensure successful trade facilitation discussions. The public sector is responsible for providing resources and working in collaboration with the private sector, while the private sector should engage in productive dialogues. Both sectors should follow established processes to the extent possible in their local context, to ensure successful trade facilitation discussions.
The implementation of the WTO-TFA is a critical step towards promoting global trade and reducing the barriers that have traditionally hampered the growth of small and medium-sized businesses. It is therefore imperative that both the public and private sectors play an active role in the implementation process. By proactively engaging with their respective NTFCs, freight forwarders can help to ensure that the implementation process is successful and that the benefits of the WTO-TFA are fully realised.
As part of its annual event, the FIATA Headquarters Meeting, which took place from 18-21 March 2023, FIATA dedicated a session to the topic of trade facilitation and NTFCs. With the participation of UNCTAD, a workshop was organised and provided the opportunity to gather interactive feedback from members on their engagement, the issues they encounter and the topics which are highly discussed in their respective committees.
Make sure to have a look at the Guidance ‘Empowering Trade Facilitation: Guidance on the Implementation of the WTO-TFA’ and share it around!
To continue the dialogue, and to stay up to date with this pressing topic, FIATA invites all interested supply chain stakeholders to join the FIATA World Congress from 3-6 October, hosted in Brussels by the Belgian FIATA Association - FORWARD Belgium! Register here: https://fiata2023.com/ and stay tuned for more details.
Sofia Aiche, Project Officer at International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations – FIATA (firstname.lastname@example.org).