It was a rocky start for a business relationship once valued at $ 930 billion, and a relationship that showed the importance of providing traders in the UK and Europe with clear and straightforward information of the kind of information that no were not required in the Single Market.
It is in this spirit that the WTO adopted the Bali Trade Facilitation Agreement in 2014.
Although 30 pages long, its most important paragraph is the first, which obliges each country or customs union to publish information on trade rules and procedures.
When the UK left the European Union, that is exactly what it did. The day before the new arrangements were put in place, he published a step by step guide with instructions on the paperwork required to export everything from sparkling wine to luxury handbags.
While other historic trade agreements enter into force, albeit with the aim of increasing trade, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area, these step-by-step guides have become essential.
ACFTA is expected to cover 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of $ 3 trillion. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that it has the potential to boost intra-African trade by half if it eliminates import duties, but to double trade if other obstacles, known as non-tariff barriers, are also reduced. International Trade Center (ITC) believes it will help businesses invest in manufacturing across the continent.
For all of this to work, it is important that traders have access to the right information. As with the UK, a number of African governments have been working hard.
Earlier this year, Rwanda unveiled its commercial information portal. Using a software platform called eregulations from the UN Conference on Trade (UNCTAD), and installed by ITC, it offers rules for importers, exporters and those passing through the country, as well as analytical tools. market, information specific to each border crossing (Rwanda has a lot) and a helpdesk.
East African Freight Logistics Magazine called that a “game changer”.
Theoneste Sikubwabo, a chicken exporter, told local media, “We were spared the unnecessary costs that we used to incur when traveling to and from places to learn about certain business information or obtain various certifications.” He said he could now do it “from the comfort of our seats, thanks to the portal”.
Using the same platform, Kenya’s commercial agency, Kentrade, also created a portal, which receives 10,000 visitors per month.
But it went further. Since last year, he has been using the portal to fight red tape, simplifying 48 different export procedures by checking each procedure against the law to see which documents are actually needed.
For a procedure, requiring food and coffee exporters to register with the Kenya phytosanitary inspection service, he reduces the steps involved from 10 to 5 and the total time from fourteen days to six.
Kentrade then calculated that cutting red tape for this one procedure alone would save companies $ 230 each. They would no longer have to pay secretaries to type so many letters and forms, managers to check and sign them, or drivers to take them to government offices and stand in line.
He now examines all the other procedures that agricultural exporters face. The savings in time and money could be significant.
Indeed, a study by the World Economic Forum noted that such actions could contribute even more to the growth of trade than the traditional route of simply reducing tariffs. For SMEs, for whom trade-related red tape can represent a large part of their costs, cross-border sales could increase between 60 and 80 percent.
The same has happened outside of Africa.
Sri Lanka, known for exporting Ralph Lauren polo shirts, Victoria’s Secret bras and tea, recently unveiled its trilingual business information portal, which to EU Ambassador in Colombo This would help facilitate exports to Europe and, by extension, because EU requirements are particularly stringent, to other countries as well.
Meanwhile, the Tajikistan portal, which covers 1,500 goods and products, was the most cited in Asia in terms of maturity by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
In the 18 developing countries, UNCTAD and ITC now have high-end trade information portals, many of which are as advanced, if not more, than those in developed countries.
Trade information portals are the lubricant that keeps trade moving. They allow small businesses to export and grow, countries to attract investment in manufacturing, and governments to cut red tape. Without them, as we have seen with Brexit, trade can literally stop at a distant dock.
The writer is an economist at the UN working on digital government and investing.
© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service