Remarks by Ambassador Michael Froman on the Launch of the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation
December 17, 2015
“Thank you, Steven. Thank you to the WTO Secretariat staff for organizing this important and timely event. And of course, let me thank our hosts, the Government of Kenya, for bringing us together for this Ministerial Conference.
“It is fitting that we’ve gathered here to discuss trade facilitation. African countries and least-developed countries (LDCs) are expected to be among the biggest beneficiaries from implementation of this agreement. And to grow those benefits, I’m extremely pleased to welcome the launch of a new, unique initiative: the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation, and to join the UK, Canada, Germany, Australia, the WTO, and very importantly, the private sector in this overall effort. I think you all know how important the Trade Facilitation Agreement is, both as the first multilateral agreement that the WTO was able to reach agreement on, and you all know the numbers, as the Director General laid out.
“The broader implications, including some of those laid out at the WTO Trade Report recently, about how the implementation of TFA can help promote export diversification, can help attract foreign direct investment, improve revenue collection, and very much support SMEs engagement with the global economy, are also quite important.
“I’d like to say from our own perspective, we know, as is the case for many countries, that SMEs are really the driving force of the economy. They are the job creators. And yet, when we ask our SMEs what are the biggest challenges they see facing them when they engage in international trade, the number one issue they point to are the complexities in the various customs procedures and border measures, and the TFA very much is an effort to address them.
“We were delighted to hear the news about the new ratification, and we hear there will be more of them coming soon, including, of course, Kenya’s ratification just a week or two ago here.
“Throughout this whole process, we’ve known that capacity building and technical assistance are going to be a key part of implementing trade facilitation. The United States, since 2001, invested in $17 billion in various trade capacity building efforts, including the trade hubs here in Africa. As we look at our own programs, we recognize that there’s more that we can do to improve upon what we have done, both in terms of scaling up our efforts, but also partnering with stakeholders like the private sector to make them even more effective.
“So a year ago, USAID convened a group of donors around the world, as well as private sector representatives, to talk about how we can work together to promote the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, and we have a whole of government approach, from USAID to the MCC, to our other organizations who play a significant role in this.
“What I'm most excited about is that this Global Alliance reflects a true public-private partnership. It depends on assessments, with real metrics on how we're doing so we can continue to improve how we deliver capacity building, and make sure it's having the desired effect.
“The U.S. has mobilized $50 million to support the Global Alliance. I'm delighted to be joined by Lord Maude and by Steven Pope from DHL. DHL has been one of the leading forces behind this agreement from the beginning, and I want to thank the ICC, the World Economic Forum, and the Center for International Private Enterprise for the role they are playing in this.
“We're fully committed to seeing that TFA is ratified and fully implemented, including providing a robust technical assistance and capacity building support to developing countries who need it in order to implement their obligations. Leading this Global Alliance is a critical role in that overall process, and I'm very supportive of the work going forward.”
The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement was concluded at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali in 2013. The TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area. The agreement will enter into force upon acceptance by two thirds of the WTO Membership. As of December 17, 2015, the WTO has received 63 acceptances from developed and developing countries – including five LDCs.
To fulfill their commitment to help developing countries and LDCs implement the TFA, the United States, along with Australia, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom laid the groundwork to pursue a new model of assistance that partnered with the private sector to support rapid and full implementation of the TFA. The Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation (GATF) is the result of that effort. Based on contributions identified so far, the GATF is the largest pool of resources dedicated to TFA implementation. This partnership is supported by a Secretariat created by the World Economic Forum, the International Chamber of Commerce, and the Center for International Private Enterprise, and by the private sector representatives and others who are contributing their expertise and resources for this noteworthy mission.