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WTO trade reform deal to slice through red tape [Cape Times (South Africa)]
[December 11, 2013]

WTO trade reform deal to slice through red tape [Cape Times (South Africa)]

(Cape Times (South Africa) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Before a product can be imported into the US, a shipper must satisfy regulations of at least 13 government agencies, from Customs and Border Protection to the Transportation Department.

Other countries require the filing of as many as 30 forms, some on paper, according to Brandon Fried, the executive director of the Airforwarders Association, which represents companies that handle air-freight shipments.

United Parcel Service (UPS), Boeing, Caterpillar and FedEx are among companies hopeful that an agreement reached on Saturday at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will establish common procedures and cut red tape that can leave perishable goods rotting on piers. The WTO says the accord may boost the global economy by $1 trillion (R10 trillion).

"What's in place now is a pretty fragmented system where each country kind of makes its own rules, which leads to delays in transit," Fried said.

Trade ministers from the WTO's 159 member nations meeting in Bali, Indonesia, unanimously agreed on measures to make customs rules more transparent, expedite the release of perishable goods at ports, promote the use of electronic payments and adopt common customs standards, according to a fact sheet from the US trade representative's office.

"What this agreement is doing is facilitating the movement of everything to electronics," Laura Lane, the president of global public affairs for UPS in Washington, said. "We think it will drive greater volume." The WTO's general council still needs to adopt the agreement, which may not happen until July. Critics say the measures amount to little more than a commitment from member countries to update their customs rules rather than address more serious issues.

Lori Wallach, the head of the Global Trade Watch programme at Washington-based Public Citizen, said it was too early to tell whether the agreement would measurably boost trade.

"If you think of the countries that have a large volume of trade, a lot of them already have computerised, streamlined customs," she said.

For years UPS and FedEx have advocated making goods flow more easily through customs, something they say can create jobs for small- and medium-sized businesses in particular.

Lane said UPS would not have invested as much time as it had in the issue, "unless we saw that the benefits were big".

FedEx saw the Bali deal as making "global trade simpler, more transparent and more predictable", Michael Ducker, the chief operating officer of FedEx Express, said.

The deal would expedite customs procedures by allowing for pre-clearance before goods arrived at ports, Michelle Wein, a research analyst focusing on trade at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in Washington, said.

"The major beneficiaries of the Bali deal are the developing countries," particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, Wein said. "It's really aimed at integrating them into global supply chains." Even in the EU, companies must comply with different laws in each of the 28 member states, according to the US trade representative's office.

"Companies large and small will now find it simpler, faster and less costly to access the markets" of the WTO's member states, Chicago-based Boeing said in a statement on Monday. - Bloomberg Cape Times (c) 2012 Independent Newspapers (Pty) Limited. All rights strictly reserved. Provided by, an company

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