Increasing inter and intra-regional trade flows
Kicking off the first plenary session at WEDF 2012, ‘Trade Facilitation: Enhancing interregional and intra-regional trade’, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN, argued that trade between ASEAN member is low and the only way to improve this is by better integrating SMEs in trade. SMEs need better access to markets, finance and technology he said, but more most also be done regionally to improve trade facilitation.
During the session, which was moderated by Ms Valentine Rugwabiza, Deputy Director-General of the WTO, the audience also heard from Dr Rob Davies, South Africa’s Minister of Trade and Industry who said that Africa had much to learn from Asia when it comes to economic integration. He pointed out that while in Asia regional trade makes up 25% of the total, in Africa this stands at only 10%.
Meanwhile, Mr Salah Sharif, Director of the Sharaf Group, a shipping company based in the United Arab Emirates, highlighted how Dubai had successfully managed to become a regional hub for trade. He pointed out that through four elements – good regulations and transparency, better infrastructure, improved security, and equality – Dubai has attracted more than 7,000 companies, 100 airlines, and people from 180 nationalities to the country.
Dr Peter Allgeier, President of the Coalition of Services Industries of the United States, said that while trade facilitation in itself is not a magic want, it an important prerequisite to move up the value chain, adding that capacity building is needed, too, in order to take advantage of new market openings.
Read the full report from the first WEDF plenary session.