Last week TOP joined forces with Wilton Park to host a high level meeting on Trade Facilitation. Delegates met to consider whether a multilateral agreement on trade facilitation at the WTO Ministerial in Bali this December could provide African nations and the global trading system with the tools to unlock Africa’s economic and social potential.
Trade facilitation is undeniably a development issue, but the estimated trillion dollar boost to the global economy would be felt far beyond the continent’s borders. Alongside the economic benefits of trade openness, the potential human development improvements in many of the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the fields of security, health, education and environmental sustainability could be a catalyst for significant development outcomes and inclusive prosperity. Removal of both tariff and ‘behind the border’ barriers could also boost intra-continental trade by improving access to global supply and value chains for African businesses and enabling them to achieve export competitiveness.
Participants from the worlds of policymaking, international institutions, business, academia and civil society discussed how best we can all work together over the coming weeks to ensure that an agreement on trade facilitation is agreed in Bali.
We were delighted to be joined by Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, who delivered a keynote speech “The road to Bali: driving and delivering a meaningful consensus”. Lord Green emphasised that world growth depends on world trade and that the incontrovertible fact is trade benefits both parties – all the evidence is that when you open up markets, people flourish, businesses grow and you create jobs.
The Trade Facilitation deal that is on the table for the Bali Ministerial would be an enormous prize if we can get this right. If we do, it is worth around half of all the benefits of the entire Doha Round. Whilst the minute details of form filling in and customs procedures might not be the headline acts of the development debate, the impediment they create for trade is obvious – this is not a trivial deal. The clear benefits, particularly to smaller businesses, of being able to get across borders more freely is one that will contribute materially to the growth in global trade and to rising prosperity.
It is also very clear that every single country gains from it. Some gain more than others, of course, but every country gains from what is on the table in terms of trade facilitation and we have to get this deal through somehow. The next few weeks are crucial if we are to see a deal signed in Bali.
Please see the Wilton Park website for the full programme and a link to Lord Green’s speech