CASTRIES, St Lucia -- A series of national consultations for identifying national and regional measures to better facilitate trade in keeping with the emerging commitments being negotiated on trade facilitation in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has started for OECS member states.
The first session in the series opened in Castries on Monday morning with follow up consultations scheduled for the other OECS member states over February and March.
The objective of the negotiations is to simplify and harmonize international trade procedures such as payment of fees, access to information and cooperation between customs and other authorities.
Trade facilitation refers to the processes and procedures involved in moving goods across borders. These include the fees required and time it takes to carry out such payments, notification of new measures, the use of customs brokers, compliance with border procedures and the time taken to have matters regarding processes and procedures relating to the clearance of goods redressed.
The OECS Secretariat is coordinating the series of consultations within the member states. Consultations in Saint Lucia end on February 19, 2013, and continue in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines February 21-22, Antigua and Barbuda February 25 – 26, Dominica February 28 – March 1, Grenada March 11 – 12 and St Kitts and Nevis March 14 – 15.
Programme officer at the OECS Secretariat’s Trade Policy Unit Alicia Stephen said, since August 2012, OECS member states have been reviewing the draft text of the agreement and assessing their ability to implement the provisions.
“Trade facilitation is one area in which if we improve our practices and procedures such as the clearing of goods at the ports for wholesalers or retailers and consumers we can become more competitive and reduce the cost of doing business. Also for our own regional agenda, we are engaged in implementing the OECS Economic Union in which the Common Market is an important part and trade facilitation is one area in which we can improve the ease of doing business within the single space and also reduce the cost of doing business,” Stephen said.
The text currently includes 39 measures and officials from the public and private sectors are expected to agree on the timelines, actions and resources required to implement them using regional and national approaches.
Trade facilitation is a key element of the OECS Economic Union and this work is expected to advance regional efforts toward the creation of the single economic space as well as informing the OECS’ engagement in the WTO negotiations. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is assisting this effort, as part of the UNCTAD project on implementation plans for WTO Trade facilitation agreement in developing members, financed by the European Union and Norway.
Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Business Development Investment and Consumer Affairs Peter Lorde said, in this rapidly changing global economy, trade facilitation should be adopted as a tool for economic development thereby developing comprehensive national tools and strategies and mainstreaming them into the national development plan.
Addressing Monday’s meeting, he said a national trade facilitation road map will inform the national and regional trade facilitation development strategy and once implemented is expected to improve Saint Lucia’s business climate.
Referring to Saint Lucia’s current top position in the World Bank ranking for ease of doing business in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Lorde also said there is need to continue to move forward and embrace the right reforms.
Trade facilitation is one of the issues being negotiated in the Doha Round of the WTO.