Switzerland agency to facilitate understanding of WTO talks

SWITZERLAND-based Agency for International Trade Information and Cooperation (ITIC) has embarked on capacity building programmes for both state and non-state actors in East and Southern Africa aimed at improving basic understanding of WTO negotiations.

The programme is a component of the DFID-financed project supporting Least Developing Countries (LDCs) in the Doha Trade facilitation negotiations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The capacity building programmes would initially begin with a regional workshop aimed at alerting senior policy makers to the alternative manners in which existing policies could be administered, making it easier to cross borders, thus facilitating trade.

Commenting on the development yesterday, Consumer Unity &Trust Society (CUTS) International Zambia coordinator Angela Mulenga said trade could only be enhanced if trade facilitation related issues were well-understood.

Mulenga said capacity building meetings were timely since global economic trends were moving at an accelerated pace.

She said LDCs, especially landlocked countries such as Zambia, were faced with great difficulties in accessing regional and world markets.

“These difficulties arise from their remoteness to and from sea ports, burdensome non-transparent and non-standardised border crossing infrastructure and lack of a technical knowhow of issues relating to trade. All these lead to higher transaction cost and reduced competitiveness,” Mulenga said.

She said Zambia and other LDCs could not afford the huge investments associated with trade facilitation infrastructure, customs modernisation, information and communication technology, and human resource development.

“Coupled with the above, unscrupulous business practices also make the relationship between trade or customs authorities and the business community a little bit strained. This is not good for implementation of trade facilitation measures. Therefore, to address all these concerns so that developing countries can fully participate in global trade, we feel that it is important that developed countries and donor agencies provide technical assistance and capacity building as envisaged in the WTO Annex D of the July Framework Package,” said Mulenga.

“It is also important to point out that trade facilitating agencies in different countries might have to work together if the fruits of trade facilitation are to be fully achieved. For example, enhanced cooperation between customs agencies of importing and exporting countries could help address cases of false declarations. But for this to happen, the customs bodies in the two countries will need to be at the same, or at least almost the same, level of technological advancement especially in the use of information and communication technology.”

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