The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on Wednesday, March 22, commenced a three-day empowerment program for stakeholders of the National Trade Facilitation Committee of Liberia (NTFC). The training is intended to broaden the knowledge of stakeholders on international standards and best practices for the facilitation of trade.
Speaking at the kickoff of the empowerment training at a local resort in Monrovia, the Deputy Minister for Trade Services at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Stephen T. Marvie Jr., said the training is intended to build the capacities of NTFC members, as well as provide international standards and recommendations for the committee.
Minister Marvie told participants that the forum will also be used to rank the priority measures in the Action Plan emanating from of the recent documented trade Facilitation Agreement Report, a report that was done by the International Finance Corporation (IFC). “Many of you participated in the IFC on the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which is an important agreement for global trade community,” he added.
He said the TFA came into force on February 22, 2017 following the ratification by two-thirds of the World Trade Organization (WTO) membership and will assist WTO members to ensure the rules of trade, and added: “though not very perfect, but it remains important to prevent the ‘law of the jungle’ from prevailing in international trade relations.”
In Liberia, he said, “Many seem exhausted with sometimes bureaucratic delays and occasional red-tape, which pose a burden for moving goods across the borders for traders. But this problem is not new and is at times complicated by the fact that the process of change is gradual.”
According to the Minister, this process led to Liberia welcoming the national initiative to introduce a single window platform to integrate trade processes and procedures in a more transparent manner, adding that Liberia needs trade facilitation to be simpler, modernized and harmonized for export and import processes.
Looking at the benefits, Minister Marvie said estimates show that a full implementation of the TFA could reduce trade costs by an average of 14.3 percent and boost global trade up to US$1 trillion per year, with the biggest gains for the poorest countries.
Importantly, he said, the implementation of TFA is linked to the capacity of the country to do so. Liberia has concluded an assessment of the TFA in terms of its capacity.
“We would like to take advantage of the TFA facility, which is meant to assist developing and least-developed countries in implementing the TFA. Liberia’s commitments must be categorized in categories A, B, or C, and have been done in the assessment report,” he said.
He indicated that the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry have demonstrated some levels of commitment in terms of meeting these notifications but must ensure that the commitments are implemented across other ministries, agencies and commissions.
Bismark Sitorur, Economic Affairs Officer of UNCTAD, said UNCTAD is pleased to share its work with Liberia in terms of capacity building to ensure that the leaders play their role in the reform of the country.
He said the training is in relation to article 232 of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement, whereby member countries of the WTO are expected to establish committees that will take the role to facilitate the implementation of the article within the agreement.
Mr. Sitorur said he believes that the training is timely for Liberia, because Liberia has entered into an agreement, which allows least-developed countries to submit their categorization to the WTO in categories A, B or C.
Mr. Sitorur stressed the importance of private sector involvement in such an initiative, which will help the members of the committee to function well together.
He said: “The government has a view on the facilitation needed at the borders; however, the private sector might also have a view, because they are the customers, exporters and importers and have direct experience in terms of moving goods across borders.”