Botswana hopes to benefit from its recent ratification of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which is envisaged to enable smoother cross-border trade.
Bottlenecks along trade routes have been identified as some of the most stubborn obstacles to economic growth and development.
Botswana is the eighth WTO member to ratify the trade facilitation agreement whose aim is to ease border procedures and to facilitate the movement, release and clearance of goods.
According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the agreement is expected to improve efficiency in cross border trade among WTO members, since governments are expected to apply and conduct border controls more efficiently by streamlining and automating border clearing processes.
Chief public relations officer in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Kediretswe Pule said governments are also expected to avail information through the Internet and hence create greater transparency and predictability in the export markets.
“Traders will move their goods across the borders more quickly and easily and transaction costs are expected to be reduced and hence reduce prices for consumers and producers,” he said.
Pule added that transit costs for landlocked countries are expected to reduce together with bureaucracy and corruption. Small and medium-sized businesses will also benefit as excessive bureaucracy and red tape are expected to reduce.
In addition to creating better business environment for the private sector, Botswana will benefit from the assistance from development partners in her effort to implement the agreement. Pule said the agreement recognises that developing and least-developed countries may not have the necessary capacity to implement some of the provisions of the agreement and as such made provisions for assistance.
In July 2014, the WTO director general launched the TFA facility whose aim is to help ensure that the assistance is provided to all those that require it.
“Botswana will be in a position to implement measures that she is already implementing such as pre-arrival processing, post-clearance audit, expedited shipments and pre-shipment inspection,” Pule said.
According to the ministerial decision, adopting the TFA and the protocol amending the Marrakech Agreement, the TFA will enter into force once two-third of the WTO members have ratified it.
This means that the TFA will become an integral part of the WTO agreement and will thus be binding on members that have deposited their instrument of ratification. These members will then be expected to implement the agreement as per its obligations.
Botswana submitted her instrument of acceptance on June 18, 2015 and will therefore be in a position to implement the agreement once two-third has been achieved. Hong Kong, Singapore, the United States, Mauritius, Malaysia, Japan and Australia have also ratified the TFA.
Negotiations on trade facilitation at the WTO started in 2004 and became part of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations, which comprise ten subjects.
The aim of the WTO agreement on trade facilitation is to ease border procedures and facilitate the movement, release and clearance of goods. The TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.