About the Regional Forum

 

Background

Trade facilitation can have a significant impact on economic development and poverty reduction. More efficient international trade procedures and customs operations can significantly reduce border-related trade transaction costs, which results in increased volumes of trade and welfare gains, particularly for developing countries. Moreover, they can increase a country’s competitiveness and attractiveness for foreign investors, enhance its tax collection and help prevent corruption and smuggling. Reforms in that policy area can thus bring valuable benefits to businesses, governments and consumers alike.


However, trade facilitation reforms may in some cases be complex to design and implement. In addition, their cost implications have been a significant concern for developing countries in the framework of the WTO negotiations on trade facilitation. While the 2004 WTO General Council Decision (the “July Package”) acknowledges that trade facilitation is important to make the process of trading smoother and to strengthen the participation of developing countries in the global economy, some countries argued that the disproportionate costs of trade facilitation may be difficult to justify in the light of other development priorities.


The Mandate of the OECD in the Area of Trade Facilitation

Accordingly, Annex D of the July Package indicates that negotiations on trade facilitation “shall also address the concerns of developing and least-developed countries related to cost implications of proposed measures”. Annex D also invites the OECD and other international organisations to “assist Members in (the) process ... of identifying individual Members’ trade facilitation needs and priorities and the cost implications of possible measures” and to ensure that technical assistance and capacity building for trade facilitation is effective, operational and coherent. To respond to this invitation, the OECD has produced various analytical studies that examine the costs and benefits of introducing trade facilitation measures, identify good practices and approaches for implementing such measures at national and regional levels, and provide practical recommendations to strengthen the effectiveness of technical assistance and capacity building in this area. In addition, the OECD has engaged in the organisation of Global and Regional Forums, in view of generating discussions between member countries and non-members on the results of its analytical work. The primary objectives of those Forums are to enhance members’ and non-members’ understanding of the issues at stake in the current WTO negotiations and to promote an informal dialogue and confidence-building amongst all relevant stakeholders (governments, businesses and civil society), in view of promoting a successful conclusion and implementation of a future WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation.

The first of those events was organised in Colombo, Sri Lanka in October 2005 and gathered stakeholders from all regions; the second was organised in Yaoundé, Cameroon, in September 2006 and gathered stakeholders from Western and Central Africa. This year’s OECD Regional Forum is organised in Cape Town, South Africa, on 11 and 12 June 2008, and will gather stakeholders from Eastern and Southern Africa.