Business News of 2013-12-09

WTO addresses delays in clearing goods

The various borders, barriers, checkpoints and procedures that traders, importers, and manufacturing concerns have to go through in clearing products, raw materials or finished products, hamper trade.

These bottlenecks are time-consuming and costly, which has a multiplier effect on the entire business of the entities concerned and the countries involved, in the long term.

Traders, importers, manufacturing organisations and individuals have often expressed worry over trade barriers, and similar concerns have been expressed in recent times by traders and importers in Ghana.

The various bodies involved in the business or goods clearance chain have been holding discussions with the view to explaining reasons for such procedures, and also towards addressing concerns raised.

It is along these similar lines that,the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has put in place measures to address cumbersome customs procedures, which result in delays in goods clearance between borders and at various checkpoints.

The WTO observed that, these delays, coupled with the various negotiations that usually go on, before goods are cleared, involves a lot of time and money, and affects certain types of goods.

At their ministerial conference in Bali, Indonesia­, ministers from 159 countries, reached a deal intended to boost global trade.

The deal, which could add about $1tn to world trade, gives developing nations more scope to increase farm subsidies.

This agreement, therefore, seeks to simplify the procedures for doing business across borders and cutting red-tape.

It will also improve duty-free access for goods sold by the world's poorest countries.

The WTO chief, Roberto Azevedo, was happy to note that for the first time in the history of WTO, it had delivered since it was founded in 1995.

It is noted, for example, that Africa has the longest customs delays in the world.

The African Development Bank is quoted as saying that it can take 36 hours to get goods through the customs post at the Victoria Falls crossing from Zambia to Zimbabwe.

It says there are often more barriers to negotiate once goods are over the border. The highway between Lagos and Abuja in Nigeria has 69 official checkpoints.

It said, “It takes time and costs money dealing with these delays. It can be disastrous for a cargo of perishable goods. These are exactly the kind of barriers that the WTO deal is intended to tackle”.

Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said the deal would "benefit all WTO members".

According to the BBC, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said the "historic" agreement could be a "lifeline" for the world's poorest people, as well as benefiting British businesses to the tune of more than $1bn (£600m).

EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said if the poorest nations "have more trading capacity it will also result in more investment in logistics and infrastructure".