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trade facilitation

The Agreement in Bali Is Just the Beginning: Now the Work Toward Implementation Starts

Selina Jackson's picture

Day 4 of the WTO's Ministerial Conference, Bali, 3 December 2013. Source - WTO.By now the ink has dried on the hard-fought achievement of the 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) last weekend in Bali, Indonesia. The landmark agreement – the first since the establishment of the WTO in 1995 – consists of three components: trade facilitation, some agricultural topics, and issues of importance to least developed countries.

Beyond the substance, the agreement comes at an important moment. Just at the point when many feared that momentum was shifting toward bilateral agreements and “mega-regional” trade agreements and away from the WTO, members managed to reach agreement at the multilateral level. This is especially important for the small and least developed countries that rely most heavily on the multilateral system to have an equal voice, secure market access, and effectively integrate into the global economy. While trade ministers, the WTO Secretariat, and its Director General deserve credit for the outcome and probably a much-needed rest, attention must now turn toward developing a concerted and well-coordinated effort to ensure successful implementation.

Notes From the Field: Making Trade More Efficient in Tunisia

Julia Oliver's picture

About "Notes From the Field": With this occasional feature, we let World Bank professionals who are conducting interesting trade-related projects around the globe explain some of the challenges and triumphs of their day-to-day work. The views expressed here are personal and should not be attributed to the World Bank.

The interview below was conducted with Hamid Alavi, a senior private sector specialist and Regional Private Sector Development Coordinator. He oversees and manages the work program, projects and advisory services related to private sector development and competitiveness. He has published on access to finance, innovation, private sector development, enterprise competitiveness and trade facilitation, food security, telecoms, pollution control, trade finance, and export promotion.

Mr. Alavi spoke with us about the successful implementation of a single-window trade portal project in Tunisia. The project enhanced transparency of trade transactions and cut processing time at the Port of Rades from 18 days to two-and-a-half days during an 8-year period starting in 2000. In 2008, the project was featured in the International Finance Corporation’s “SmartLessons” series. In the interview, Alavi explains why it worked, despite some political resistance.

More Than the Sum of Its Parts: Why Logistics Matter for Your Kindle

Ben Shepherd's picture

Electronics Factory. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/poorlenz/22590873/sizes/m/in/photostream/Picture a global supply chain. The one that puts together the Amazon Kindle, for example: The flex circuit conductors are made in China, the wireless card is made in South Korea, and the tablet is assembled in Taiwan. The system works because each location specializes in something, whether it is relatively cheap labor, a cluster of machinery, or technical skills. But unlike a product made in a single factory, the Kindle’s components must cross borders.

The ease of crossing those borders – including through seaports or airports – is crucial to the production network. And, as it happens, fluidity is more important to trade in components than trade in final products. This makes sense, logically – it is easy to see how a whole holiday season’s worth of Kindles could be held up if the flex circuit conductors or wireless cards don’t get to Taiwan on time.

Why Is Trade More Costly For Poor Countries? A New Database Gives Us Some Answers

Jean-François Arvis's picture

Airplanes on a runway. Source: World Bank.It is far more expensive for Tunisia to trade manufactured goods with its next-door neighbor, Algeria, than to trade them with distant France. Similarly, the cost of trading agricultural goods between neighbors Algeria and Morocco is more than twice as high as it is between Algeria and Spain. What hinders countries that are so close to each other – and that share common languages and elements of culture – from exchanging goods?

This is one of the questions we sought to answer in developing a new trade costs database, which is a joint project between the World Bank and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). In constructing the database, we were initially motivated by a need to provide understandable estimates of trade costs to clients in North Africa. But the database has broader reach: being able to measure and explain the intensity of trade is of practical importance for many countries and for many aspects of our work at the Bank.

Shifting Focus in Trade Agreements – From Market Access to Value-Chain Barriers

Bernard Hoekman's picture

Chain. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pratanti/5359581911/Value chains are an ever more prominent feature of global commerce, with goods being processed – and value being added – in multiple countries that are part of the chain. No longer is trade as simple as manufacturing in one country and selling in another. Rather, goods often cross many borders, undergoing processing and accruing components in diverse settings before ending up in a retail store. A new database developed by the OECD and WTO provides greater clarity into value-added trade trends. Looking at the world through a “value-added” lens challenges our conventional thinking about trade policy, and in particular, the focus of where policy makers should be spending their efforts. This new perspective makes clear that to truly benefit from the dynamism of value chains, governments will need to cooperate in new ways -- with each other and with members of the private sector.

Re-thinking Trade Policy Priorities in a Supply-Chain-Driven World

Bernard Hoekman's picture

Supply trucks in Lao. Source: World Bank.A company importing desktop computers into Russia expects border processing times of up to six weeks. Chinese customs authorities take so long inspecting drug shipments that a global healthcare company must hold nine days’ worth of inventory. Concerned about the prevalence of theft, a cell phone manufacturer must provide a security detail for overland shipments in Mexico.

These are examples of the supply chain barriers that, as a whole, are more detrimental to world trade than tariffs, according to a new report, Enabling Trade: Valuing Growth Opportunities, released today at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The study, a collaborative effort between Bain & Co., the World Bank and the World Economic Forum, concludes that a concerted effort to reduce supply chain barriers to levels observed in the best performing countries could increase global GDP by some 4.7 percent – six times more than what could be achieved from eradicating all remaining import tariffs.

After the Holidays, a Time to Reflect on the State of Food in Africa

Ian Gillson's picture

As we gather in kitchens and dining rooms during this two-month stretch of eating and charity, let us pause for a moment to review the state of food trade in Africa: how fares cross-border commerce in key crops on a continent with pockets of harsh weather and unpredictable politics? How goes the traffic in grains and tubers?

It’s clear that prices are high, following the February 2011 peak worldwide. The price of maize in Nairobi has tripled this year alone, while the price of a 50 kg bag of rice in Dakar has risen from $36 to $43.50. These spikes can be blamed partly on increased demand for food crops – including for biofuel production in Europe and the US. They are also due to supply-side factors, such higher energy prices which impact transportation and fertilizer costs, and weak harvests in large exporting countries.