The intensive two-day consultative dialogue sensitised private sector stakeholders on the potential benefits of the TFA to the business community, and provided an opportunity for feedback and input on a number of regional approaches to strategically implement key trade facilitation measures outlined within the Agreement.
The Consultation was attended by senior executives and representatives of Chambers of Commerce and other Business Support Organisations (BSOs) within CARICOM as well as the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC).
Representatives from the OECS Commission and CARICOM Secretariat facilitated sessions on (a) the Regional Agenda for Trade Facilitation and (b) Engaging the Private Sector in Policy Dialogue.
The Commission also made a presentation to participants on Trade Facilitation Reforms in the context of the OECS Economic Union Area. The presentation highlighted the strategic link between the TFA and the Free Circulation of Goods within the Economic Union and underscored that a regional approach to implementing the TFA would maximise the benefits to be derived by OECS Member States and wider CARICOM Community.
The private sector representatives applauded the joint efforts of the OECS and CARICOM Secretariats for the regional initiative and for moreover convening a dedicated session for the private sector, who are directly involved in conducting trade and business activities.
Representatives also stressed the need for meaningful private-public dialogue at the national and regional levels to foster trust among all stakeholders and ensure effective co-ordination and implementation of the TFA and trade facilitation reforms on a whole. Representatives further emphasised the need for political will of the Region’s Governments to undertake full and effective implementation of the TFA and other Bi-lateral Trade Agreements to ensure that the “Market Access” negotiated leads to actual “market penetration”.
Representatives accorded highest priority to regional activities to support implementation of Electronic Single Window systems followed by regional approaches to support implementation of TF Measures on Customs Fees, Publication, Risk Management, Post Clearance Audit, Authorised Economic Operators and Test Procedures. These measures were seen as most critical for
(a) reducing clearance time and cost;
(b) simplifying import and export procedures;
(c) improving understanding and predictability of import and export procedures; and
(d) reducing risk and threats of dangerous and counterfeit products to consumers.
Going forward, the OECS and CARICOM Secretariat will incorporate the private sector priorities into the Regional Strategy in order to finalise it and present to the Council of Trade & Economic Development (COTED) for approval.
The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement seeks to improve multilateral trade rules for:
(i) Expediting movement, release and clearance of goods;
(ii) Strengthening cooperation between Customs and other border and regulatory authorities; and
(iii) Enhancing technical assistance and capacity building support for developing countries like the OECS and Less Developed Countries.