Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal hosted the second training sessions of their National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFC) in the first half of March 2017. The three-day workshops—organized by the Trade Hub in partnership with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) followed up to the initial training that was carried out in September at the launch of the Trade Hub sponsored capacity building for the two NTFCs. The workshops were held in Abidjan on March 7-9 and in Dakar March 14-16.
These events were significant as they were held immediately after the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTO-TFA) entered into force on 22 February this year. The full implementation of the WTO-TFA is expected to reduce time and costs required to trade. It is seen as an avenue for improving the economic competiveness of developing and least developed countries. The agreement requires WTO member countries to establish national structures or mechanisms to oversee its full implementation. Therefore an effective national structure charged with overseeing the implementation of the agreement is demonstration of political will to comply with the agreement and is an important prerequisite for successful execution of implementation activities.
Both Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal have functioning NTFCs – structures comprising both public and private sector organizations playing important roles in countries’ external trade. They have been spearheading national activities to help the countries comply with the WTO-TFA. Both countries have notified the WTO on their status of compliance by specifying measures according the required three categories; A,B and C. Category A measures are requirements that countries have determined to be compliant with or which countries undertake to implement within a year of entry into force of the agreement. Category B measures are provisions that countries have undertaken to implement on their own within a given transition period. These could be provisions where implementation could be in the process and countries have evaluated that they can meet the requirements without external support. Category C measures are requirements which countries can only implement with technical assistance.
The entry into of the agreement implies that NTFCs become more proactive in ensuring compliance with the agreement. These workshops were focused on ensuring that NTFC members fully appreciated the role required of their committees and that the legal instruments that have established the committees gave sufficient and clear mandates to members to oversee the implementation of the provisions of the agreement. Participants, under the guidance of UNCTAD experts, analyzed existing legal instruments for the NTFCs in comparison to existing global practices. The training also discussed the approach for formulating national implementation plans within the perspective of the agreement having come into force. The experts also explained the importance of regional coordination, especially on trade facilitation activities that require cross border collaboration. The training also covered the importance of optimal use of resources and the importance of having a strong NTFC to effectively coordinate various donor trade facilitation activities within the realm of a plan. Thirty-five NTFC members were trained in Côte d’Ivoire and 28 in Senegal.
A number of recommendations were made to improve the functioning of the respective NTFCs. For example, Côte d’Ivoire undertook to revisit the draft terms of reference for the operation of the NTFC while Senegal will be revising the law establishing the committee to make it more relevant to current circumstances. The committees will also reorganize themselves by formalizing most of their work processes and practices through terms of reference, forming thematic working groups to focus on related measures to facilitate the development of effective implementation plans.
Further trainings are planned for the next quarter and will focus mainly on legal aspects of implementing trade facilitation measures, analysis of bottlenecks in supply chains and developing national implementations plans for trade facilitation programs in the context of the WTO-TFA.