Speech by ITC Executive Director at the first International Forum for National Trade Facilitation Committees

23 January 2017
ITC News
Speech delivered by ITC Executive Director Arancha González at the first International Forum for National Trade Facilitation Committees
23 Jan 2017 - Palais Des Nations

UNCTAD Secretary-General Kituyi
WTO Director-General Azevedo
Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends

I am very pleased to be a co-partner in this first International Forum for National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFC). Today is partnership in action. The Geneva trade hub has collaborated extensively around trade facilitation since the negotiations were launched and this has been accelerated since the Agreement on Trade facilitation was reached in December 2013.

With just three more instruments of ratifications to go before we reach the magic number of 110, we can expect the entry into force of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in only a few weeks ‘time.

ITC will continue to work with each and every one of you to ensure we move from ratification to implementation. For it is the implementation that will truly have an impact on the cost and ease of doing business. Estimates produced by several agencies point at a reduction of the cost of trade of around 14% when the agreement is implemented. This will lead to concrete impact for your micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) for whom these costs confine them to often very small, less lucrative domestic markets.

National Trade Facilitation Committees have a key role to play in ensuring that the full benefits of reform are shared by all economic actors in the economy.

You bring governments and traders together to work in partnership through a platform for continuous dialogue. You are in fact the guardians of this Agreement. It will be the NTFCs that will be best placed to channel the needs and priorities of the business community to the WTO and to development agencies such as ITC and UNCTAD; that will best understand what is working and what is not; and will provide the all-important stories and evidence of the impact trade facilitation reforms are having on the ground and on the competitiveness of SMEs.

The imminent entry into force of the Agreement provides a strong impetus for the planning and implementation of successful reforms – and it is largely the NTFCs responsibility to keep up the momentum.

But the work of NTFCs is not without its challenges. Our objective this week is to help you meet these challenges – and prepare you as the Agreement comes into force. Through our work, we have seen that even though NTFCs may be relatively easy to establish, they are much harder to maintain and operate in a way that ensures continuous results.

NTFCs often cite lacking the financial sustainability, legislative basis and a clear work programme required for sustainable operation. More established NTFCs face challenges such as the lack of a permanent secretariat, or limited private sector participation. They may feel powerless and unable to turn recommendations into new procedures, and businesses may also question the value for money when they don’t see results and follow up from recommendations.

ITC, along with a number of organisations present today, assists NTFCs in addressing all of these issues. As of today, ITC has helped to establish and strengthen many of these NTFCs from Botswana, Guinea and Coté d'Ivoire to Tajikistan, Senegal, and Ukraine. This will continue to be ramped up with many of ITC's current interventions having a Trade Facilitation and trade policy component such as the interventions in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. ITC has also mobilized hundreds of private sector representatives in implementation of the agreement and this will continue to be a priority.

In collaboration with UNCTAD and UNECE, ITC has developed a step-by-step guide on how to set up National Trade Facilitation Committees, including questions around mandate, membership, structure and funding. Most importantly, we have looked at best practices for the effective participation of the private sector in all stages of policy formulation, from diagnostics and solution-design to monitoring and evaluation, by creating sustainable mechanisms. Such mechanisms will ensure that there is effective public-private dialogue underpinning business environment reforms so they can be structured in a way which delivers real benefits on-the-ground.

Giving businesses a voice on trade issues is at the very core of ITC’s mandate. The participation of the private sector, especially SMEs, is crucial for the effectiveness of the dialogue. From awareness raising and dedicated training modules to building SME capacity to comply with cross-border requirements and in-house coaching to companies to help them establish or strengthen their freight desk and improve their internal import/export management processes, ITC has been your partner.

This work is taking place both at the national level, as well as at the regional level, underpinning the regional integration efforts in Africa, Caribbean, Central America, the Pacific and Asia. Trade facilitation is an essential ingredient to synchronize reforms at the regional level.

2017 will be about implementation. And implementation will require ramping up funding and expertise to allow sustainable impact. I hope that the sessions on how to access technical assistance from international agencies and bilateral funders that have been planned for this week will lead to a better alignment of demand and supply and even clearer financing options to support developing countries and in particular least-developed ones. We must ensure no one is left behind.

For my part I pledge that ITC will continue to work in partnership with other international organisations active in this space, in partnership with the private sector, in partnership with developing and developed countries so that we can continue to deliver value for money. For every dollar you invest in ITC generates 8 to 10 dollars in business deals. And that same dollar leverages an additional 25 cents in kind and in cash from the private sector.

Ladies and gentlemen, as trade hits strong headwinds, let’s keep demonstrating how lowering trade costs can help SMEs participate in international trade and through that contribute to helping the next 1 billion people exit extreme poverty

Thank you