Three key United Nations agencies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen their support for developing countries as they implement the World Trade Organization's Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTO TFA), also known as the Bali Agreement.
Under the terms of the MoU, UNCTAD, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) will leverage their unique strengths, products and services to provide a coordinated and integrated programme of support to developing countries implementing the WTO TFA.
The three agencies emphasized their longstanding work in the simplification and harmonization of international trade procedures, and the opportunity to enhance trade facilitation implementation in developing countries and least developed countries.
The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement presents a great opportunity for developing and least developed countries to enhance their participation in the global economy, expand trade and create employment at the local level.
By strengthening our collaboration, we are better positioned to help developing countries realise these potential gains. This is at the core of the work of the United Nations and the WTO TFA is an excellent catalyst to help achieve this goal.
"Our wide range of UN recommendations, standards and tools in trade facilitation are freely available to all UN Member States," UNECE Executive Secretary Christian Friis Bach said. "Through this strengthened cooperation, we will enhance the capacity of countries to cut red tape, remove regulatory and procedural barriers to trade, and significantly reduce their cost of doing business."
"Effective trade facilitation is a win-win scenario for both trade and governments," ITC Executive Director Arancha González said. "This integrated approach will greatly strengthen our capacity to support the business community to benefit from the WTO Agreement. Ensuring that small and medium-sized enterprises benefit fully from the WTO TFA is crucial to ensuring that the potential gains from the Agreement are realized on the ground, and that they have a real impact on the cost of doing business in developing and least developed countries."
Cooperation between the agencies will concentrate on helping countries identify, categorise and implement the measures that they committed to under the WTO TFA.
Actions will focus initially on assisting countries to establish the necessary institutional arrangements for implementing the agreement - such as setting up national trade facilitation committees - and ensuring that countries are trained in using the various UN recommendations and tools available for implementing the measures in the agreement.
These include ensuring better and easier access to information for traders; facilitating greater predictability and reliability of procedures through simplified formalities, documentation and information flows using international standards; and the adoption of facilities such as single windows for trade - all of this in close collaboration with the WTO and the donor community.
Specific areas of collaboration include:
Joint missions to assist countries identify trade facilitation needs and approach to implementing the WTO TFA
Joint development and maintenance of the UN Trade Facilitation Implementation Guide
Joint publications related to trade facilitation implementation
Joint maintenance of repositories of Trade Facilitation Committees and related matters
Collaboration in the development and maintenance of UN Trade Facilitation Recommendations and Standards on Trade Facilitation