Ceremonial Endorsement of the Trade and Investment Facilitation Mechanism (TIFM)
Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Trade. European Commission
H.E. Eng. Yarub Qudah, Minister of Industry, Trade & Supply, The Kingdom of Jordan
Jorge Martins Borrego Acting Secretary General, Union for the Mediterranean
Ministers, ladies and gentlemen
Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan once said 'Knowledge is power and Information is liberating'. If we are serious about ensuring the global trading system is fair, transparent and inclusive then we have to be honest in recognising existing pervasive information asymmetries between countries. One of the ITC's fundamental pillars is addressing this trade and market information gap and helping to translate data and information into intelligence.
Here, the European Union has been a longstanding partner. Not only in supporting ITC's global public goods programme and our new helpmetrade.org MSME intelligence portal, but in being an advocate for ensuring that countries at all levels of development can access this information.
Information- relevant and accessible information- reduces search cost, improves business decisions, enables evidence-based policymaking and increases the predictability of trade. In short: information reduces trade cost. Particularly for MSMEs.
In practice, however it is challenging to make information accessible, well-structured and easily understood. In ITC's business surveys which document regulatory and practical hindrances between countries, one of the most frequently cited barriers is lack of information. Frustratingly, or perhaps luckily, it is one of the easiest constraints to tackle.
Policy makers and MSMEs across the region have recognized this challenge for some time. And today we see this being addressed with the launch of the EuroMed Trade and Investment Facilitation Mechanism (TIFM) platform.
The efforts that participating Mediterranean countries have been making to assemble and disseminate up-to-date key trade information through the EuroMed platform is noteworthy and I congratulate you for this successful initiative. We can already see the first results of this unprecedented effort. Eight months after its launching (June 2017), we have exceeded 10,000 visits to the platform.
This is your platform. ITC just helped to bring it to this point. It is thanks to your engagement and your support that the economic actors in the region will benefit from this information. Hence, you have to continue disseminating and promoting the tool. But we should not stop there. This year, ITC will be working in the region to enhance the information on rules and certificates of origin and add practical information on customs procedures.
We must also think ahead. Information needs are constantly changing and a tool is only as good as its relevance. We should actively explore new areas to enhance the information and continue answering user needs with information on investment and services for example. And why not include additional countries? We have covered nine so far and we can go beyond.
The Mediterranean region has preceded many others in trading with each other - for many centuries people in the region have been exchanging goods, technologies but also knowledge and ideas. But there is still much underutilised potential. According to our calculation, regional integration among the Non-EU EuroMed countries is low with only 9% of total exports destined to regional partners. To compare: 68% of European exports go to European markets and even in Africa, a region where trade integration is still growing, the share of intra-regional exports stands at 23%.
ITC analysis estimates that additional exports worth $12.8 billion may be realized if frictions were fully addressed and adequate measures to leverage on the expected GDP growth were put in place. Realizing the untapped intra-regional potential would increase by half the share of intra-regional in total exports (from 9% to 13%).
The EuroMed region can also do more in services trade: current total exports stand at $146 billion but potential exports are almost $180 billion.
The TIFM has a role to play in realising this potential. By providing a powerful support tool to MSMEs, and other stakeholders, TIFM will help Mediterranean countries improve your strategic trade decisions and reduce the costs associated with market research and market entry. It will help to reinforce regional and international competitiveness and contribute to the associated benefits of more jobs, increased skills, and better wages.
You can count on ITC to continue supporting you