Global Alliance, ICC hold forum on Trade Facilitation

A business forum aimed at engendering trust between public and private sector actors as important stakeholders with significant interest in trade facilitation has been held in Accra.

The forum, which was targetted at unearthing measures that could help improve trade facilitation in the country, focused on roles the private sector can play in supporting government to become compliant with objectives of the Trade Facilitation measures.

Jointly organised by the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation (GATF) and International Chamber of Commerce Ghana in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the forum was under the theme ‘The Role of Ghana’s Private Sector in Implementation of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA)’.

On 22 February 2017, the first multilateral TFA was entered after the WTO obtained the needed two-thirds acceptance for the agreement from its 164 members.  The main goal of the TFA is to expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods across borders.

Ghana ratified the WTO TFA in January 2017 and was the 104th country to do so. Full implementation of the TFA is forecast to slash members’ trade costs by an average of 14.3%, with developing countries having the most to gain.

The TFA is also likely to reduce the time needed to import goods by over a day and a half and to export goods by almost two days, representing a reduction of 47% and 91% respectively over the current average.

According to the 2018 World Bank Doing Business Index, in Ghana an importer spends an average of 6.8 days and pays about US$1,027 in order to satisfy border and documentary compliance at Ghana’s ports.

Mr. Anthony Nyame-Baafi, Director of Multilateral, Regional and Bilateral Trade at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, reading a speech on behalf of the Minister for Trade and Industry Mr. Alan Kyerematen stated that government has developed a roadmap for implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement to ease the cost of doing business.

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Nyame-Baafi said the comprehensive document entails a strategic vision for implementing the trade facilitation reforms, which will cover a period of five years and end in 2022.

It is expected that: “By 2022, through improved efficiency and risk management, the trade reforms to be implemented will decrease the time for clearance of imports, exports and transit goods to 48 hours,” he explained.

Mr. Nyame-Baafi indicated that cross-border trade will be increased by 40 percent, adding that the country will also witness a 40 percent reduction in clearance cost for imports, exports and transit goods.

“The number of documents required for imports and exports will also be reduced by 2022. As much as possible, only five or less documents will be needed to clear exports and five to clear imports – and these will be paperless. Ghana is expected to implement at least 60 percent of the trade facilitation measures for the period.”

He indicated that government is committed to pursuing pragmatic measure to remove bottlenecks along the entire domestic and global value chain, adding that the measures will involve addressing port access and capacity issues, transport links, finance, trade facilitation and market access issues.

He said for the past decade the country has been undertaking a number of reforms aimed at facilitating trade to improve its import, export, and transit trade regime.

“The reforms have seen a reduction in the processes and an increase in use of information and communications technology at the ports, as well as unifying and reforming the tax administration function of Customs,” he said.

Mr. Helge Sander, the Deputy Head of Mission for the Federal Republic of Germany, said partnership toward the implementation of such an agreement helps to build mutual trust, making implementation less difficult.

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He said the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation is focused on contributing to how the TFA can be of benefit to all stakeholders and increase job-creation, and that is why its successful implementation is relevant.

Mr. Sanders said Germany has established the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation jointly with other donors including Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and the United States, due to the their commitment to supporting trade facilitation efforts worldwide.

The President of IMANI Ghana, Mr. Franklyn Cudjoe who Chaired the forum – urging government to recognise the private sector as the engine of growth – said private sector actors should not be ignored on major policies that directly and indirectly affect their operations.

He said although government claims it has removed some bottlenecks at the ports, the country continuously declines in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings.

Secretary-General, International Chamber of Commerce Ghana (ICC Ghana), Emmanuel Doni-Kwame, welcomed the country’s entry into the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) – indicating that the trade agreement could provide a boost of over US$1trillion to global trade flows.

“Facilitating trade is about streamlining and simplifying international trade procedures. Exporters and importers in the international trade arena in Ghana have decried the continuous bottlenecks they encounter when engaging in trading activities at the ports and borders of the country,” he stated.

Mr. Doni-Kwame said bureaucratic bottlenecks at the ports have resulted in businesses losing huge sums of money. This, he said, adds to the cost of production – rendering businesses uncompetitive.

“Efforts have been made to address these difficulties businesses encounter. Among some of these measures are policies and laws related to trade facilitation. To enhance international participation of countries, especially developing and least developed countries, the WTO members entered into an agreement on trade facilitation,” he remarked.

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