A lively exchange between guests from governments and businesses on the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the digitalisation of international trade – the High-Level Forum 2022 focused on strong cooperation between governments, companies, and associations.
On 19 September 2022 the 3rd High-Level Forum took place. The event was jointly organised by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK), and the German Alliance for Trade Facilitation.
More than 50 high-ranking guests from governments and businesses came together in Berlin. Further guests participated virtually. Together they discussed the challenges and opportunities for the further implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement of the World Trade Organization.
Dr. Brantner, Parliamentary State Secretary, BMWK, opened the event: “We see the desire of many countries for a larger share of global value chains. We want to contribute to making this possible. […] The success story of the German Alliance for Trade Facilitation shows how constructive cooperation and joint efforts can make a difference. Simplifying and expediting customs procedures has a significant impact.“
Dr. Kofler, Parliamentary State Secretary, BMZ, reinforced this in her speech: “Trade is a tool for sustainable development. Against this background, I am grateful to all those who work very practically, e.g. within the German Alliance for Trade Facilitation. […] Rarely it has been more important to strengthen the resilience of supply chains.”
As part of the first panel discussion, experts from the private and public sector exchanged views on the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Mr. Meyer (BMZ) emphasised the major challenge of integrating 54 countries into a common trade area. At the same time, he believes in the great potential, especially in times of geopolitical crisis. Mr. Niedermark (BDI) and Ms. Dall’Omo (Siemens) agreed. As they stated, a large market is emerging and AfCFTA offers the opportunity to reduce the trade deficit of African countries by up to 50%. Mr. Opoku (Ministry of Trade Ghana) brought in the local perspective: “AfCFTA enables the industrialisation of African states […] and facilitates domestic trade on the continent”.
The second panel discussion revolved around the topic of digitalisation of international trade. Dr. Berger (IDOS) and Ms. Jansen (OECD) each emphasised that digitalisation offers opportunities to make processes more efficient, increase transparency and reduce discrimination. Mr. Steinke (HP Inc.) noted that standards in processes and data are necessary to create a consistent, transparent exchange. If this succeeds, trust can be created. Ms. Mirković (Customs Administration of Serbia) reiterates this point from the perspective of customs: “Digitalisation in trade facilitates legal and hinders illegal business”. However, social acceptance is a necessary basis for digital processes, emphasised Dr. Saeed (ITC). He added: “We must not forget the digital divide and inequalities between and within countries. Even in terms of digitalisation, those who need the most help should get the most help.”
Mr. Meyer (BMZ) concluded the event: “It is a strong signal that everyone in this room believes that trade is a way to make people’s lives easier and better”. AfCFTA and digitalisation are topics of hope that send a positive signal despite these times of upheaval.
Here you can find further information, materials and pictures of the event: