A Snapshot of Wealth in Africa

The continent of Africa contains more than 50 countries, but just five account for more than half of total wealth on the continent: South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco, and Kenya.

Despite recent setbacks in Africa’s largest economies, wealth creation has been strong in a number of areas, and total private wealth is now estimated to be US$2.1 trillion. There also an estimated 21 billionaires in Africa today.

Drawing from the latest Africa Wealth Report, here’s a look at where all that wealth is concentrated around the continent.

South Africa is a still a major stronghold of wealth in Africa, with a robust luxury real estate market and ample wealth management services. The country is also ranked second on the continent in per capita wealth. That said, the country has faced challenges in recent years.

An estimated 4,500 high net worth individuals (wealth of US$1 million or more) have left South Africa over the past decade, migrating to places like the UK, Australia, and the United States. In one stark data point, the report points out that “there are 15 South African born billionaires in the world, but only 5 of them still live in South Africa.”

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Pandemic redraws FDI outperformers map

According to the seventh edition of the Greenfield FDI Performance Index, Costa Rica has entrenched its global leadership as the country that attracts the most foreign direct investment (FDI) relative to the size of its economy, thus proving the resilience of its investment proposition in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The UAE and North Macedonia also showed their strength, coming in second and third respectively. 

The pandemic redrew the map of the world’s best FDI outperformers relative to the size of their global gross domestic product (GDP). In this respect, Costa Rica is both an outperformer and an outlier as the only Latin American country in the top 10, which is dominated by major business hubs such as the UAE and Singapore, and countries in emerging Europe. On the other hand, African countries paid the highest price as investment flew back to the safety of OECD countries. In 2019, as many as five African countries featured in the top 10; two years later, none of them made it. 

Of the 84 countries recording more than 10 FDI projects in 2021 and thus being considered for the 2021 index, 68 have an index score greater than 1.0, indicating a larger share of investment projects relative to its share of GDP. The remaining 16 have a score less than 1.0, indicating a smaller share of projects relative to GDP. 

Costa Rica’s 2021 score stands at 15.5. This suggests that, given the size of its economy, it attracts 15.5 times more projects than the size of its GDP would suggest.  

The 2021 index contains nine African countries, and continues a trend that has seen African nations appear less in the index compared to the previous edition – only countries with 10 or more FDI projects in the full year are considered. Of those included, only Egypt (1.0) and Tanzania (1.4) saw their scores increase from 2020.

South Africa had an unfortunate year in that while FDI increased, its economic growth outpaced investment, resulting in a drop in this year’s index.

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Source: fDi Intelligence, 17 August 2022

Digital nomads open door to new SEZ models

Picture: Prem Chandaka @unsplash

Even though the world has surpassed the heights of the Covid-19 pandemic, analysts predict that 25% of workers will continue working from home indefinitely. 

The closure of office buildings is bad news for special economic zones (SEZs) reliant on traditional commercial real estate. The past three years have come with many shocks, all of which threaten to disrupt traditional business models. The pandemic, the supply chain crisis, inflation, war in Ukraine, and the OECD’s 15% minimum corporate tax have all taken their toll. 

Unsurprisingly, the past six months have seen a wave of SEZs running into bankruptcies, including in VietnamIndia and the Philippines.

A very different type of SEZ has emerged to cater to so-called “digital nomads” — office workers and entrepreneurs who, thanks to the internet and trends following Covid-19, no longer need to be tied to a physical location.

Most SEZs look like industrial parks. Some, catering to digital nomads, look more like beachfront resorts. To see examples of SEZs successfully tapping into this new market, look no further than the Cayman Enterprise City or Prospera in Honduras. Some planned future SEZs — like Malaysia’s $1.2bn Iskandar Waterfront — are taking this strategy to an extreme.

The most savvy digital nomads practice ‘min-maxing’ — a video game term referring to the practice of using the mathematics behind games in order to win more using fewer resources. In the context of digital nomads, the term means maximising how far one’s income goes by deciding where to temporarily relocate. Typically, digital nomads attempt to min-max three key metrics: cost of living, tax rules and living standards.

If SEZs want to attract digital nomads, the first question that they must ask themselves is whether they can offer a low cost of living.

Many digital nomads work for companies that pay in strong currencies, such as the US dollar or euro. Their mobility gives them the ability to work from anywhere, and as a result, many choose to live in jurisdictions where their currency goes further. Although expensive jurisdictions such as the UAE, Singapore and Monaco have much to offer, the daily cost of living is simply too high to attract digital nomads. On the other hand, low-cost jurisdictions such as Thailand, Brazil and Morocco have a significant advantage.

The next metric digital nomads try to maximise is personal income tax rates.

For those who hold passports from countries that tax overseas income (such as the US or China), optimisation is possible, but significantly more complicated. However, many digital nomads from countries like those in the EU succeed in paying no income taxes whatsoever. SEZs that expect to suffer as a result of the OECD’s 15% global minimum corporate tax can instead shift their incentives to offer personal income tax incentives if they want to attract digital nomads.

Finally, what matters the most at the end of the day is quality of life.

Regardless of how a jurisdiction optimises the cost of living or taxes, intangible quality of life factors ultimately matter more than anything else. Many digital nomads base their decisions on factors such as the beauty of the scenery, the quality of nightlife, the presence of services like Uber, the quality of historical monuments, and the friendliness of local people.

Targeting digital nomads comes with drawbacks. They tend to create service sector jobs rather than export-oriented industries. They also are fickle and can leave at any moment. Most currently operating SEZs are zoned for industrial and commercial use rather than residential use. Countries like Portugal now offer digital nomad visas; countries with clumsy visa policies will be left behind.

While most SEZs are probably not good destinations for digital nomads, the few that successfully cater to them will become powerhouses over the next decade. As the world becomes more mobile, the collective economic power of digital nomads will become increasingly prominent.

Source: Article by Thibault Serlet, fDI Intelligence, 12 August 2022

The World’s Largest Container Shipping Companies

Did you know that 80% of the global goods trade is transported over sea? Given the scale of human consumption, this requires an enormous number of shipping containers, as well as ships to carry them. 

At an industry level, container shipping is dominated by several very large firms. This includes Maersk, COSCO Shipping, and Evergreen. If you live along the coast, you’ve probably seen ships or containers with these names painted on them. 

Generally speaking, however, consumers know very little about these businesses. This graphic aims to change that by ranking the 10 largest container shipping companies in the world.

Read the Full Article here!

WCO – 2021 Illicit Trade Report

The World Customs Organization (WCO) issues its 2021 Illicit Trade Report (ITR), an annual publication which offers a comprehensive study of illicit trade flows through an in-depth analysis of seizure data and case studies voluntarily submitted by Member Customs administrations worldwide. The information captured in the ITR provides essential insight into the occurrences of illicit trade, thereby assisting Customs administrations in understanding trends and patterns and making enlightened decisions to secure cross-border trade. 

This year, the analysis provided in this Report is based on data collected from 138 Member administrations. Previously composed of six sections, the Report now covers seven key areas of risk in the context of Customs enforcement: Anti-money laundering and terrorist financing; Cultural heritage; Drugs; Environment; IPR, health and safety; Revenue; and Security.

Overall, this 2021 Report largely focuses on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the flows of illicit trade worldwide and how criminal organizations have adapted and shifted transport and shipment modes of smuggled goods. One common denominator to the different areas covered in this Report, is the increased use of online marketplaces and social media to accommodate both demand and supply during the health crisis. Consequently, seizures in mail consignments are seeing an important increase.

The analysis contained in this Report is mainly based on the collection of data from the WCO Customs Enforcement Network (CEN) — a database of worldwide Customs seizures and offences. The CEN is a vital resource, allowing all WCO Members to access a critical mass of information for analysis of illicit trafficking in the various areas of Customs’ competence. 

However, the CEN database relies heavily on voluntary submissions by Members hence the quantity and quality of the data submitted to the system has its limitations. To overcome these shortcomings and to complement the CEN dataset, the WCO has undertaken a review of the Illicit Trade Report and its methodology. This is an ongoing process and work is still underway until a final product can be delivered next year. 

However, as part of this new methodology, the data and information sources used to elaborate this Report has been enlarged to include various open sources. These sources include official government media outlets, reports published online by Customs administrations and international organizations, and a survey elaborated by the WCO in order to collect additional data from its Members and from its Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILOs).

“The importance of comprehensive data analysis is indisputably a key component to support effective and efficient Customs enforcement activities”, says Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General. “The Illicit Trade Report is a pioneer in terms of data collection and analysis for over twenty years, and as a strong believer in the power of data and Customs digital transformation, I am pleased that we now have the in-house resources and technology to offer such in-depth analysis, further supported by open source information, and the most recent and intelligible data visualizations for this edition of the Report”.

WCO News – June 2022 Edition

The WCO has published the 98th edition of WCO News, the Organization’s magazine aimed at the global Customs community, providing a selection of informative articles that bring the international Customs and trade world to life.

This edition’s “Dossier” focuses on ongoing discussions and initiatives that aim to “green” trade as well as on the role of Customs in supporting this ambition. Given that one question that comes up repeatedly is how to increase the available data for environmentally friendly goods and ensure they are specified by name under their own Harmonized System (HS) code, the Dossier also provides answers to some of the most common queries about the HS and how to tailor it to meet changing needs.

The “Panorama” section looks at a broad variety of initiatives such as developing an anti-corruption strategy, building Customs-Business partnership, launching research and development programmes and placing scientists at ports of entry to identify unknown substances. 

The “Focus” section brings together articles dealing with gender equality and diversity. The WCO Secretariat presents the latest developments at the WCO in these areas, while two administrations share their experience of creating an inclusive workplace culture where diversity is celebrated and everyone is treated fairly.

Lastly, in the “Point of View” section representatives from the private sector share highlights of some technological breakthroughs aimed at improving Customs controls while facilitating trade and, in one case, protecting importers’ information.

Global minimum tax – a head-scratcher for developing countries

Picture: John Tyson on Unsplash

In a meeting with prospect investors, Jamaican industry minister Aubyn Hill eloquently conveyed his vision for a new free zone in Caymanas, Kingston. A smirk appeared on his face as he delivered the final line. 

“Developers will enjoy a 50-year total exemption on corporate income tax,” Mr Hill said on June 16, seemingly indifferent to the 15% global minimum tax rate that 136 countries, including Jamaica, are expected to implement from 2023 onwards. 

His remarks embody the ambiguity of many developing countries towards the OECD-sponsored reform. While most of them subscribe to the idea behind the reform, they cannot help seeing fiscal incentives as a key pillar of their investment promotion strategies. 

Viable tool  

Policy-makers across the globe have resorted to tax cuts to lure foreign businesses as competition for investment went global in the past 40 years. The world’s weighted average statutory corporate income tax (CIT) rate has declined from 46.5% in 1980 to 25.4% in 2021, according to figures from the Tax Foundation. 

Developing countries in particular have raced to lower national CIT rates to boost their investment appeal. The global minimum tax reform now puts them between a rock and a hard place. 

“From a resource mobilisation perspective typical of a finance minister, the reform may be seen as a good base to stop the race to the bottom,” Bogolo Joy Kenewendo, an economist and former minister of investment of Botswana, tells fDi, on the sidelines of AICE2022, the annual gathering of free zones organised by the World Free Zones Organisation in Jamaica in June 13-17. 

“However, from an investment promotion perspective, tax incentives are the tools we use to attract investment. OECD countries, in particular G20 countries, have already gone through that development phase and built their industries. They no longer need that race to the bottom, but what about countries that see this as a viable tool?” 

The OECD proposal is built on two main pillars. The first proposes to re-allocate some taxing rights over multinational enterprises from their home countries to the markets where they have business activities and earn profits, regardless of whether firms have a physical presence there. The second introduces a global minimum corporate tax rate set at 15%, which will apply to companies with revenue above €750m and is estimated to generate around $150bn in additional global tax revenues annually.

Free zones 

Developing countries often resort to fiscal incentives to offset structural weaknesses that would otherwise sink their hopes of landing big ticket investments. Free zones are a case in point. They have flourished on their unique combination of fiscal incentives, customs facilitations and plug-and-play infrastructure. Unctad tracked as many as 5383 free zones in 2019, 89% of which were located in developing economies.

Almost 80% of the special economic zone (SEZ) laws worldwide provide for fiscal incentives, such as tax holidays for a defined period of often five to 10 years, or the application of a reduced tax rate, Unctad also found. 

“Differentiated taxes are a necessary compensatory measure to offset the inherent inefficiencies and disadvantages of developing nations which suffer from high energy costs, deficient infrastructure, and higher inbound/outbound transportation costs,” Cesare Zingone, the CEO of Zeta Group Real Estate, a developer of free zones in Central America, tells fDi.

“Therefore an equal minimum tax would increase compliance costs, place developing countries at a competitive disadvantage, and finally favour the relocation of companies to wealthy, developed nations. However if the minimum global tax were to be implemented, it would be imperative for developing countries to implement other compensatory measures, such as reducing social security costs on labour, property taxes or import duties.”

Regardless of the OECD’s global minimum tax push, fiscal incentives continue to feature at the heart of the offer of some of the world’s biggest free zones under development. Among others, in Guatemala, developer Pacific Investment is developing 1200 hectares of land for the new Michatoya SEZ, which promises no CIT for 10 years; Indonesia has just named the island of Natuna Regency in the South China Sea as a SEZ, offering zero CIT for 10 years; Iraq is launching three SEZs to trigger development, also offering zero CIT for the duration of the project. 

If policy-makers and zones developers seem unfazed by the global minimum tax reform, the OECD is equally unfazed. 

“SEZs don’t seem to have done much to prepare for this. The reality is that this is happening, and they will have to get ready for this to come,” Pascal Saint-Amans tells fDi, oozing his confidence in the fact that once the EU and US approve the reform, a domino effect will prompt all the countries that endorsed the reform to fall in line. 

However, the road for the OECD remains uphill. In the EU, Hungary has vetoed a key vote on June 17 to approve the reform. 

Back in Caymanas, Mr Hill continued to mingle with prospect investors, pushing the CIT exemption as the icing on the cake for the package on offer. As with any other policy-maker in developing economies, he is taking his chances at the policy-making table — and so is the OECD. 

Source: FDi Intelligence

Maritime Traffic Around the World

Visual Capitalist.com

Each year, thousands of ships travel across the globe, transporting everything from passengers to consumer goods like wheat and oil. 

But just how busy are global maritime routes, and where are the world’s major shipping lanes? This map by Adam Syminton paints a macro picture of the world’s maritime traffic by highlighting marine traffic density around the world.

It uses data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in partnership with The World Bank, as part of IMF’s World Seaborne Trade Monitoring System. 

Data spans from Jan 2015 to Feb 2021 and includes five different types of ships: commercial ships, fishing ships, oil & gas, passenger ships, and leisure vessels.

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WTO to debate tariffs on $26.7tr in global e-commerce

For the past quarter century, the meteoric rise of the digital economy has been exempt from the kind of tariffs that apply to trade in physical goods.

That era may come to a screeching halt this week as a handful of nations threaten to scrap an international ban on digital duties in a game-changing bid to draw more revenue from the global e-commerce market that the United Nations estimated at $26.7-trillion.

If governments fail to reauthorize the World Trade Organization’s e-commerce moratorium, it could open a new regulatory can of worms that could increase consumer prices for cross-border Amazon.com purchases, Netflix movies, Apple music, and Sony PlayStation games.

“Absent decisive action in the coming days, trade diplomats may inadvertently ‘break the internet’ as we know it today,” International Chamber of Commerce Secretary-General John Denton wrote in a Hill opinion piece published last week.

E-Commerce Tariffs
The WTO’s e-commerce agenda dates back to 1998, when nations agreed to avoid taxing the then-fledgling market for digital trade. WTO members have periodically renewed that ban at their biennial ministerial meetings and are considering whether to do so again at this week’s gathering of ministers in Geneva.

But some nations like India and South Africa argue that the growth of the internet justifies a rethink about whether the WTO’s e-commerce moratorium remains in their economic interests. In 2020, they introduced a paper that said the moratorium prevents developing countries from gaining tariff revenue from transformative technologies like 3D printing, big-data analytics, and artificial intelligence.

While nations could draw somewhere between $280-million and $8.2-billion in annual customs revenue, new digital tariffs would also harm global growth by reducing economic output and productivity, according to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The International Monetary Fund previously calculated that a splintering of the digital economy could ultimately deliver a 6% hit to global economic output over the next decade.

If the moratorium lapsed, “it could set in motion a stampede to impose tariffs on digital flows across borders, put an unnecessary strain on an already battered global economy, and signal to the world that inflation be damned,” according to John Neuffer, the CEO of the Semiconductor Industry Association.

Practical Challenges
To be sure, it’s not immediately clear how exactly a government would impose customs duties on electronic transmissions.

It would probably be “prohibitively expensive” for customs officials to track and quantify the value of the countless data packets that bring these products to consumers’ devices, according to Denton.

“While viewing a single movie, a device could receive as many as 5-million data packets from nine jurisdictions,” Denton wrote. “How, then, would countries accurately (and impartially) calculate the tariff on a single viewing session, byte of data or file size – let alone on the endless stream of data and messages that enable modern business-to-business transactions?”

Furthermore, the WTO does not define the scope of e-commerce transmissions so there is no clarity as to which online services would be subject to new duties – be it Bitcoin cryptocurrency transactions, Airbnb lodging, Uber car rides, Doordash food delivery or Peloton fitness classes.

Finally, the proliferation of virtual private network applications that mask internet protocol addresses would complicate, if not render impossible, efforts to identify the origin of many digital commerce transactions.

Economic Trade-Off
There’s reason to believe that India is using the threat of new tariffs as a negotiating tactic to persuade other nations to concede to its demands for unrelated trade concessions.

India previously threatened to scrap the e-commerce moratorium during the WTO’s last ministerial in 2019 but backed off after nations agreed to avoid initiating disputes over certain questionable intellectual-property practices. The e-commerce debate may also be used as leverage for India’s demands to water down WTO subsidy rules for public stockholding food programs.

Such brinkmanship is made possible by the WTO’s principal of consensus, which allows any one of its 164 members to block any agreement for any reason.

“India, South Africa and their allies use the moratorium as leverage because they can,” said Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, director of the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels. “Developing countries have everything to win and nothing to lose by holding the WTO prohibition on data tariffs ransom.”

AfCFTA – Why regional support is crucial for effective implementation

Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat

In order to support the implementation processes of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) need to make informed choices about how to reap the benefits presented by the agreement, while at the same time managing the challenges that may be encountered in the course of the implementation. 

Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, stressed this Tuesday, June 7, on the occasion of the second coordination meeting of the CEOs of RECs, on the implementation of the AfCFTA held at the EAC Headquarters, in Arusha, Tanzania.

The meeting sought to take stock of the progress made since the last meeting in Accra in 2021.

The role of the continent’s eight RECs is critical especially as the latter are building blocks for the AfCFTA.

Mene said the implementation of the AfCFTA will likely influence future trade policies of the RECs. 

“In this regard, effective collaboration between the RECs and the AfCFTA Secretariat is necessary to ensure that the AfCFTA outcomes are consistent with regional advancements in trade integration made thus far and the projections for the future,” Mene said.

“Therefore, the coordination meetings offer us an opportunity to listen to one another, to better understand our areas of difference, and to work together to build consensus around common positions critical to our success at creating an African Economic Community.”

African leaders mandated the AfCFTA Secretariat, the African Union Commission, and the RECs to develop a framework of collaboration to enhance complementarity, synergies, and alignment of programmes and activities to facilitate the effective implementation of the AfCFTA. The negotiation of the AfCFTA is now in phase two which covers investments, intellectual property rights, women and youth in Trade competition policy and digital trade. 

It is Mene’s strong conviction that by agreeing on a workable framework which will strengthen the interdependence of RECs on the one hand, and strengthen the cooperation between RECs and the AfCFTA Secretariat on the other hand, “we will be taking steps critical to the success of the AfCFTA.”

“We have already received instructions from the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union to take all necessary steps to ensure the effective implementation of the AfCFTA, including facilitating commercially meaningful flow of goods and services under the AfCFTA preferential regime, across the continent. We were also instructed to develop a coordinated approach to the implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement, with the existing RECs as building blocks.”

Peter Mathuki, the EAC Secretary-General, noted that Africa is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, but trade in goods and services accounts for an estimated 3% of global exports and imports on average. 

As noted, the share of Intra African trade remains low: on average, 13% for intra-imports and 20% for intra-exports, while ExtraAfrican trade accounts for more than 80% of the total trade. Africa’s exports to the rest of the world consist of raw materials, such as oil, gas, minerals, and agricultural commodities, with little to no value addition.

Mathuki said: “There are many reasons why intra-Africa trade is low; these include differences in trade regimes (8 AU recognised RECs), inadequacies of trade-related infrastructure (poor intermodal connectivity), trade finance and trade information. 

“Other constraints are customs, administrative and technical barriers, limited productive capacity, lack of factor market integration and inadequate focus on internal market issues.”

With a market of around 1.3 billion consumers and a GDP of $ 3.4 trillion, Mathuki reiterated, AfCFTA will unlock many opportunities in the continent and redesign the architectural framework of its economic systems. 

“The eight AU recognised RECs are the official pillars of the African Economic Community (AEC) set out in the Abuja Treaty establishing the AEC. The RECs play a critical role in coordinating and submitting REC tariff offers, schedules, and commitments on trade in services and are fully involved in negotiations on outstanding issues,” Mathuki said.

“Active engagement and input from the private sector and interest groups at the national and REC level are needed to shape the AfCFTA trade regime and resolve challenges ahead.”

Amb. Liberata Mulamula, Tanzania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said her country commends the initiative of establishing collaboration between the AfCFTA and RECs towards implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement. 

“Tanzania as a member of EAC Customs Union has ratified the AfCFTA agreement and is also a member of SADC and EAC. In order to have a meaningful implementation of the agreement, the United Republic of Tanzania needs to align its participation in the AfCFTA to that of the RECs as its member.”

“I am confident that this framework will underpin the interface between the AfCFTA and RECs Free Trade Area and laydown actionable policy proposals that would assist in ensuring coherent, coordinated and fully responsive collaboration between the AfCFTA and RECs.”

Source: The New Times, 8 June 2022

Container Port Performance Index 2021

This second edition of the Container Port Performance Index (CPPI), has been produced by the Transport Global Practice of the World Bank in collaboration with the Maritime, Trade and Supply Chain division of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The CPPI is intended to identify gaps and opportunities for improvement that will ultimately benefit all stakeholders from shipping lines to national governments to consumers. The CPPI is intended to serve as a reference point for key stakeholders in the global economy, including national governments, port authorities and operators, development agencies, supranational organizations, various maritime interests, and other public and private stakeholders in trade, logistic, and supply chain services. The CPPI is not intended to cover the entire performance of a port, but to illustrate opportunities for improvement and, hopefully, stimu­late a dialogue among key stakeholders to move this essential agenda forward.

The development of the CPPI rests on total port time in the manner explained in subsequent sections of the report. This second iteration utilizes data for the full calendar year 2021. It includes ports that had a minimum of 20 valid port calls within the 12-month period of the study. Accordingly, the number of ports covered has increased from 351 in CPPI 2020 to 370 in this edition.

The CPPI 2021 has again employed two different methodological approaches, an administrative, or technical, approach, a pragmatic methodology reflecting expert knowledge and judgment, and a statistical approach, using factor analysis (FA). The rationale for using two approaches was to try and ensure that the ranking of container port performance reflects as closely as possible actual port performance, whilst also being statistically robust.

Download the Report Here!

FIATA – Launches Paperless FBL Solution

Picture: Glenn Carsten-Pieters

FIATA is proud to bring its members a pragmatic solution to move from paper documents to paperless FIATA BLs, which can be issued directly through their everyday tools. The FIATA solution improves the level of security of the FIATA BL in comparison to the paper version, making use of blockchain technology to authenticate the documents and provide an audit trail. Conscious of the various challenges which remain to be overcome to achieve worldwide adoption and legal recognition of electronic exchange of data, the paperless FBL is an answer to the needs of the industry for improved access and exchange of trade documents. The document issuer can decide in which format (s)he wishes to share the original unaltered document with its stakeholders: in paper form or as a PDF. Based on its eFBL data standard, FIATA has developed an API service, available free of charge to all software providers, allowing them to connect with FIATA to create secured paperless FBLs.

As of today, seven software providers have already signed an agreement with the Federation to implement the solution: AKANEA, CargowiseCargoXedoxOnline (Global Share), InfoSysTech-ISTNabu and Usyncro. We are very pleased to announce that the paperless FBLs can start to be issued as of today with edoxOnline, InfoSysTech-IST and Usyncro who have already finalised the implementation.

FIATA encourages all TMS’s, eBL providers and other software providers to join them and implement their solution to offer this new service to their customers. All technical specifications are available on FIATA’s GitHub repository.

 The solution, developed by FIATA partner Komgo, will help to reduce fraud risks, as each document is recorded on an immutable ledger and will be verifiable at any time by all stakeholders interacting with the document. Stakeholders will be able to either scan the QR code at the top right of the document, or directly upload the PDF on FIATA’s verification page to access the document audit trail which will

  • certify the validity of the document,
  • the identity of its issuer, and
  • the integrity of its content.

Souleïma Baddi, CEO of Komgo, when asked to comment on the paperless FBL launch said: ‘Documents are the bedrock of international trade, but they don’t operate like we need them to and they’re susceptible to fraud and forgery, that happens quite often.

Trakk is the digital ecosystem of trust for trade documents. I am thrilled to see FIATA joining all companies, financial institutions, warehouses and others who are using Trakk to protect their documents against fraud.’

‘WiseTech Global congratulates FIATA on the launch of their electronic bill of lading.’ The company continued: ‘This initiative will support transparency and security across the supply chain and will help companies to accelerate their digitalisation efforts. It was a pleasure to work with FIATA on this initiative. CargoWise customers will be able to request a connection to FIATA’s eFBL from June 2022.’ 

‘FIATA is very excited to embark on this important milestone of its digital journey which paved the way for great opportunities for the future of freight forwarders’, said FIATA Director General Stéphane Graber.

For more information, visit FIATA’s dedicated webpage

WTO launches new WTO data portal

The WTO has launched a new WTO data portal to provide easy access to key databases offering trade statistics and information on WTO members’ trade-related measures.

The new portal allows users to navigate a wide range of WTO databases covering trade in goods, services, dispute settlement, environmental measures, trade-related intellectual property rights and more. 

One of the databases is the “WTO Stats portal“, which allows users to access and download time series statistics on trade in goods and services on an annual, quarterly and monthly basis. It also contains market access indicators providing information on governments’ bound, applied and preferential tariffs as well as non-tariff information and other indicators.

The data portal will be regularly updated to take account of new systems and updates.

The WTO data portal is available here. The WTO Stats portal can be accessed directly here.

New Global Alliance of Special Economic Zones to boost development

 A special economic zone in the Dominican Republic.

UNCTAD joined hands with seven global, regional and national associations representing over 7,000 special economic zones (SEZs) to launch a global alliance on 17 May.

SEZs are geographically delimited areas within which governments promote industrial activity through fiscal and regulatory incentives and infrastructure support.

They go by many different names, including free-trade zones and industrial parks, and are widely used by developed and developing economies.

The Global Alliance of Special Economic Zones (GASEZ) seeks to drive the modernization of these zones across the world and maximize their contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan said: “The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides an opportunity for special economic zones to attract investment by putting SDGs at the forefront of their value proposition.”

Ms. Grynspan added: “A new model of sustainable special economic zones is therefore rapidly taking shape and they are contributing to more inclusive, resilient and sustainable economies in the countries where they operate.”

Pooling expertise

The alliance pools the expertise of its members to increase collaboration between SEZs, advocate on their behalf and enhance their contributions to sustainable development.  

SEZs are faced with new challenges and opportunities that require them to adapt and innovate.

Some challenges are related to the COVID-19 pandemic, with new lockdown measures in some parts of the world or disruptions due to the war in Ukraine.

Other challenges and opportunities are longer term, stemming from changing global value chains, including reshoring and nearshoring, and increased digitalization and investments in digital assets.

In addition, ongoing global corporate tax reforms require governments to re-evaluate their fiscal tools and incentives, which SEZs have traditionally relied on.

Many zones are also embracing the SDGs and targeting investment related to these goals.

Towards a global platform

During the alliance’s launch, its founding members expressed their desire to make GASEZ a global platform to catalyse partnerships and bring on board more stakeholders, including governments, the private sector and international organizations.

John Denton, secretary-general of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), said: “We support this important initiative…Through collaborative efforts you will be able to help improve SEZ services to business and at the ICC global network we stand ready to work with you to achieve this objective.”

Deepak Bagla, president of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies, said: “As supply chains re-organize themselves in a post-pandemic world order, we have a great opportunity where we can work together and create economic zones which will be based on the core pillars of sustainability, of efficiency, of creating jobs and helping us all working together with our complementarities.”

Founding members 

The alliance’s founding members include the Africa Economic Zones Organization, the Free Trade Zones Association of the Americas, the Green Partnership for Industrial Parks in China, the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation, the National Association of Foreign-Trade Zones of the United States of America, the World Free and Special Economic Zones Federation, the World Free Zones Organization and UNCTAD. The Alliance’s members represent 7,000 special economic zones in 145 economies, employing over 100 million people.

Source: UNCTAD, 17 May 2022

The Subtleties of Red Tape 

Picture – Vincent Branciforti

The following article by Dr Richard Grant, originally featured in BizNews on 19 April 2022.

It might be hard to imagine that ‘red tape’ could be your friend. Although we never actually see the red ribbon or tape that was once used to bind government documents, we do see the ponderous power of its spirit when experienced as in the Britannica Dictionary definition: “A series of actions or complicated tasks that seem unnecessary but that a government or organisation requires you to do in order to get or do something.”

Dr Richard Grant who does not have a suppressed memory of the stress, frustration and wasted time that so often come with the need to deal with a government bureaucracy to obtain a document, or to get something done? Who has not asked, “Can’t we just cut through all this red tape?” I can certainly commiserate. But be careful what you wish for.

Those old red ribbons or tape that bound those documents were merely a physical manifestation of the existence of law. Although the king might have been absolute in his power, he would keep that power only through a set of rules that would constrain the subsidiary power and reach of those who acted in his name. Throughout the ages, each government officer or bureaucrat has had his own personal desires and interests that could be quite different from those of the legitimate government leaders or of the ‘will of the people’. The rules imposed on them by the king or parliament serve not only to ensure that the king’s will would be done by the bureaucrats, but also to protect the king’s subjects from the personal whims of those same bureaucrats.

It is this latter feature that we are most in danger of losing. The protection of citizens from the arbitrary powers of government bureaucrats and their superiors is a key feature of those countries that are not only the most prosperous and free, but also most respectful of their citizens. That is the essential purpose of the rules and conventions that we call red tape. Without such controls, each bureaucrat with whom we deal would have potentially unlimited dictatorial powers. The red tape limits the size of the bureaucrat’s fiefdom and the scope of his powers within that fiefdom, thereby limiting the reach of his power over us.

Our problems with bureaucracy arise, not from the bureaucracy itself, but from the government (elected or otherwise) that creates more programmes and regulations for the bureaucracy to manage and enforce. As governments interfere more in our lives, bureaucracies must necessarily grow and become more powerful. That is what pushes out more red tape to bind ‘we the people’ rather than the bureaucrats and government officials.

When the people demand that the government do more for them, they are in essence asking the government and its officials to take on greater power and to have greater influence over our lives. That is when red tape becomes a visible and pernicious issue in daily life. Increasingly, we find ourselves dependent on some bureaucrat’s permission to conduct even the most basic aspects of our lives. To what extent do we need a bureaucrat to determine what we may buy and sell, what we must pay for petrol, from whom we are allowed to receive medical services, how we may produce and buy food, and how we might educate ourselves and share information? We might even find that we need a bureaucrat’s permission to venture out of our homes, and to do so with our faces uncovered – again.

The highest form of red tape is the national Constitution, whether explicitly written or by evolved convention. It is the Constitution that specifies and thereby limits the powers of the government and its officials. It is the set of rules within which the lesser rules, such as legislation, are made. A true constitution is necessarily far more difficult to change than is mere legislation. Just as giving a referee the power to change the rules in the middle of a rugby match would ruin the game, giving a legislature the power to change the rules that constrain it, would unleash the seekers of plunder and dictatorial rule.

Those who would live in a free and prosperous society must remember that the purpose of a constitution, and the red tape necessary to enforce it, is to constrain the power of the government, not of the citizens. When citizens experience increasing interference in the normal conduct of their lives from government regulators and other officials, the solution is not to cut through the red tape, but to push back on that red tape to bind more tightly the legislators and executives who empowered the bureaucracy.

A free and prosperous people are those who bend red tape away from themselves, instead to encircle their government and its officials, to limit their bureaucratic powers, and to tie it tightly.

Original Article