UNUnited Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Press Release

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Geneva, 21 May 2002


Exploring a New Global Vision for Trade Facilitation

(Conference room XX, Palais des Nations, Geneva,
29-30 May 2002)

On 29 and 30 May 2002, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) holds a Forum on Simpler Procedures for World Trade Growth and Development, in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the other UN regional economic commissions, the secretariat of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Customs Organization (WCO), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and various other organizations with an interest in trade facilitation.

"We hope to be able to show clearly to Governments that are undecided about its merits that trade facilitation brings benefits to all; benefits that surpass by far the cost of implementation", says Carol Cosgrove-Sacks, Director of the Trade Division of UNECE.

This event is intended to provide a neutral setting for decision-makers from industry and government to meet and exchange views on ways to advance trade facilitation in a coordinated manner in the new global trading environment. There will be balanced representation of all regions in the world, bringing together a wide range of organizations and businesses with an interest in trade facilitation. The Forum is also expected to make an input to the multilateral trade negotiations.

Five hundred delegates from more than 90 countries are expected to participate. Speakers include the Minister of Trade and Investment of the United Kingdom, the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, the Secretary-General of ICC, and the Deputy Director-General of WTO. High-level trade officials from countries outside the WTO system, such as Russia and Iran, as well as ministers and Customs chiefs from countries ranging from Kyrgyzstan to Bolivia and the Philippines appear on the programme. Port authority executives from Mumbai, Dar es Salaam and other harbours will also attend.

The faster movement of goods across borders, and the simplification, harmonization and standardization of trade procedures, for which trade facilitation stands, should create a "win-win" situation. Recent OECD studies, which will be presented at the Forum, show that up to 15% of transaction costs can be saved by trade facilitation.

However, suspicion still exists, especially among such emerging economies as India, the Philippines, Malaysia and Egypt, and even more so among some poorer nations, that a binding agreement on trade facilitation would strip them of their protection from aggressive exporters from the industrialized world, and at the same time expose them to possible sanctions if they should prove unable to comply with certain binding minimum standards. Nevertheless, developing countries do appear to value highly the practical assistance they receive for improving their Customs structures and trade procedures.

The Forum will also focus on how the rich industrialized countries might provide technical assistance for trade facilitation to the developing and transition economies, examining concrete, practical measures that can facilitate international trade in the near future.

The Forum should reinforce the image of UNECE as a place for policy dialogue, including on sensitive issues relating to the multilateral trading system.

For further information, please contact:

Mario Apostolov
UNECE Trade Division
Palais des Nations, room 437
CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Tel.: +41(0)22 917 11 34
Fax: +41(0)22 917 00 37
e-mail: [email protected]

Web site: http://www.unece.org/forums


Ref: ECE/TRADE/02/02