Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation economies are moving forward with efforts to accelerate trade and economic growth through the elimination of costly delays to cross-border trade in the wake of the World Trade Organization's failure to implement the Agreement on Trade Facilitation reached in Bali, Indonesia, last December.
Two thirds of the WTO members are required to formally accept the package for it to enter into force.
Senior customs and trade officials from the APEC region are convening in Beijing for the first time since WTO members failed to enact a protocol on July 31 for following through on simplification of customs rules and processes.
“Although the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement is experiencing some difficulties, the facilitation of trade and reduction of trade costs remain high on our collective agenda,” said Sun Yibiao, Vice Minister of China’s General Customs Administration, in remarks before officials from around the world. On Wednesday and Thursday, senior officials from the region's 21 member economies will meet.
“The setback to the agreement is disappointing, but APEC’s work on trade facilitation goes on,” John Larkin, chairman of the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment, said. “Many elements of the agreement like single windows, authorized economic operators, and the move from paper-based to electronic processes are objectives that APEC economies have long championed. We’re working to ensure that we take full advantage of them.”
Larkin said APEC nations are working under a strategic framework of mutual recognition of border controls, mutual assistance in enforcement and mutual sharing of information to improve the connectivity and efficiency of supply chains. “It is through this framework that we are building technical capacity across the region to reduce barriers to trade at and behind borders, for example, by improving IT systems, risk management and operational efficiency," he explained.
Transaction costs for cross-border trade in the APEC region dropped 10 percent between 2002 and 2010, when APEC economies took steps to follow trade facilitation action plans. Businesses saved almost $60 billion as a result of reductions between 2007 and 2010, according to APEC.
The WTO and analysts say global traders could see a net economic benefit of up to $1 trillion if the Trade Facilitation Agreement is adopted. Business groups have expressed deep disappointment for the failure of the Trade Facilitation package, blaming India and a handful of other countries for trying to protect their agriculture subsidies at the expense of the deal.