WORKING TOGETHER TO FACILITATE GLOBAL TRADE
Together with high-ranking guests from government and businesses, we discussed the current challenges in international trade and what opportunities we must promote for the further implementation of the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement.
The High-Level Forum 2022 focused on strong cooperation between governments, companies and associations. The implementation of trade facilitation under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and digitalisation of international trade were two key topics of discussion, but also within the framework of the German Alliance for Trade Facilitation. The Forum will began with speeches by two parliamentary state secretaries from relevant federal ministries. This was followed by two panel discussions and a networking event.
Video recordings of the event will be published here soon.
19 September 2022
Photos © Andreas Lemke Photography
Current economic, political, and environmental challenges influence the development of global trade. More than ever, trade facilitation as an integrative approach is in the common interest of governments, business, and society.
5 years ago, the members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) set the goal of jointly simplifying the rules on import, transit and export of goods in global trade through the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). It is not only relevant for emerging and developing countries to reduce costs and time for cross-border trade in goods. Trade facilitation leads to an increase in exports and thus improves the business and investment climate worldwide. This contributes to job creation and poverty reduction.
The 5th anniversary of the implementation of the WTO TFA is a good occasion to share learning experiences and look forward to the coming years together.
Together with high-ranking guests from government and businesses, we will discuss what the current challenges in international trade are and what opportunities we must promote for the further implementation of the TFA. We will focus on two transformative topics: Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and Digitalization in International Trade.
Why is it important to support the implementation of the AfCFTA within the framework of the German Alliance for Trade Facilitation?
The AfCFTA is the largest free trade area since the establishment of the World Trade Organization. 54 member states of the African Union have the common goal of a continental single market consisting of 1.3 billion people and a gross domestic product of 3.4 trillion US dollars. The initiative aims at promoting and expanding intra-African trade, enhancing competitiveness, and developing the processing industry of the African economy. With an expected boost of intra-African trade by 52.3 per cent (UNECA), the Agreement will encourage trade and diversify local economies. In addition, the Agreement will lead to collaborative structures, dispute settlement and a more secure investment environment. These ambitious goals support the socio-economic transformation envisioned by Agenda 2063 by the African Union. Better business opportunities and environments will benefit local and international companies alike, and the Agreement will thus be a step towards the aspiration of ‘a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development’ (African Union, Agenda 2063).
Given this imperative and with a view to stimulate debate and support action on the new ground, speakers and guests of the High-Level Forum 2022 will discuss challenges and opportunities in the implementation of the AfCFTA. The discussion will focus on sustainable and self-sustaining economic development in Africa and highlight trade facilitation measures and efforts of governments, businesses, and associations in boosting international and intra-African trade. Current trends and challenges in global supply chains provide additional food for thoughts about potential of the AfCFTA implementation. Through bundling resources and exploring diversification strategies all stakeholders could contribute to more resilient cross border trade.
 United Nations. Economic Commission for Africa (2019). African Continental Free Trade Area: Questions & Answers. Addis Ababa. © UN. ECA. https://hdl.handle.net/10855/43253
How can digitalisation promote transparent and efficient custom processes?
For the movement, release, and clearance of goods in cross-border trade, specific data must be processed. In many developing countries, paper-based documents and manual processes are still common in customs. Resulting risks such as lack of transparency and inefficiency pose challenges for governments, businesses, and commoners at borders.
The digitisation of data and processes around trade enables fast document transfer, verifiable sources and a high level of trust for all actors involved. Digital customs processes greatly facilitate trade by reducing waiting time at border crossing points. The contact restrictions caused by the Covid 19 pandemic have shown that the digitisation of documents and procedures is possible in a short time. For sustainable impact, governments need to optimise and adapt entire systems in consultation with the private sector over the long term. Technologies such as blockchain enable participatory and transparent processes in which small and medium-sized enterprises can also access relevant systems and structures more easily. In various projects, the German Alliances for Trade Facilitation thus works together with local and international partners to implement digital solutions for trade. This is in line with the ‘Digitalisation for Development’ approach of the German Federal Government, which focuses on new work, local innovations, equal opportunities, Good Governance and the use of data to support the digital transformation in partner countries.
The High-Level Forum 2022 provides a platform for different perspectives on the digital transformation, as speakers from government authorities, associations and businesses come together to discuss how further facilitation in international trade can be promoted.