Trade Facilitation Implementation Guide

UNECE-Trade Facilitation Implementation GuideHaving spent the better part of the last fortnight amongst customs authorities and implementors of Single Window, I’m compelled to share with you a site (if you have not already been there) which attempts in a simple but comprehensive way to articulate the concept and principles of Trade Facilitation and its relationship and connotation with Single Window. The UNECE Trade Facilitation Implementation Guide should come as a welcomed resource, if not a companion, to trade facilitation practitioners and more specifically Customs Authorities wishing to embark on a trade facilitation approach. Of course it is a very useful reference for the many avid scholars on customs and trade matters across the global village. Of particular interest are the case studies – two of which feature African countries (Mozambique and Senegal) – providing a welcomed introduction of trade facilitation and Single Window on our continent. It is good to note that Single Window has less to do with technology and more to do with inter-governmental and trade relationships and an understanding of how these are meant to co-exist and support one another  – Enjoy!

Trade facilitation is emerging as an important factor for international trade and the economic development of countries. This is due to its impact on competitiveness and market integration and its increasing importance in attracting direct foreign investments. Over the last decade, it has gained prominence in the international political agenda as part of the ongoing WTO multilateral trade negotiations as well as of wide international technical assistance programs for developing and transition economies.

The primary goal of trade facilitation is to help make trade across borders faster and cheaper, whilst ensuring its safety and security. In terms of focus, it is about formalities, procedures, and the related exchange of information and documents between the various partners in the supply chain. For UNECE and its UN Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), trade facilitation is “the simplification, standardization and harmonization of procedures and associated information flows required to move goods from seller to buyer and to make payment”. Such a definition implies that not only the physical movement of goods is important in a supply chain, but also the associated information flows. It also encompasses all governmental agencies that intervene in the transit of goods, and the various commercial entities that conduct business and move the goods. This is in line with discussions on trade facilitation currently ongoing at the WTO. Source: UNECE

Nigeria – Single Window initiative back on track

After much controversy centering on allegations of corruption and impropriety, the Federal Government terminated the contract awarded to Single Window Systems and Technology Limited. The contract which allowed for a sole submission point for importers and exporters to lodge their documentation was unilaterally awarded by the Federal Ministry of Finance, under the Umaru Yar Adua administration, on behalf of the Nigeria Customs Service to the company registered in June 2010 with N 1m share capital.

The contract was reported to be worth N 4.5 trillion. The decision to discontinue the contract was based on an investigation by the Ministry of Finance which looked into the processes and the terms of the contract. The investigation which was approved by the President revealed that the contract breached the provisions of both the Procurement Act and the ICRC Act. Nigerian Customs received a letter of notification from the supervisory of the ministry of finance that a concession agreement had been entered between the Federal government and the Single Window System Technologies Limited, so where did the customs come into play before the contract was signed?”

Nigeria Customs Service had earlier said on the controversy, “How can a company enter such an agreement without the knowledge of the Nigeria Customs Service?” The Customs was not involved in the execution of the agreement entered by the Federal Ministry of Finance through the Former Honourable Minister of Finance; Olusegun Aganga. Therefore Nigerian Customs was not carried along by the company called Single Window System Technologies Limited. The tender was scuppered.

Recently, the Nigerian Customs Service convened a Single Window National Stakeholder Conference under the slogan – “Collaboration -Towards a Facilitated Trade Environment”. The conference and workshop took place between 23 and 26 April 2012, and was attended by several local and international delegates representing UNECE, UN/CEFACT, and donor companies German Development Company (GIZ), USAID and Crown Agents. Details concerning the launch of this event can be accessed via the following links – Conference Website and Conference Summary Report.

Comment: So what started on shaky ground has finally materialised into a fully-fledged Customs-led programme – the way it should be, and hopefully remain. Moreover, trade representatives and intermediaries will need to be an integral part of this development for it to attain success.

Source: Business News Nigeria and Valentina Mintah (Trade Facilitation Consultant).

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