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USAID – World Customs Organization Trade Facilitation Conference
September 11, 2012
Remarks by USAID Deputy Mission Director for Regional Programs – Littleton Tazewell
I am pleased to be here with colleagues from the World Customs Organization, Government Officials from around the region and beyond, plus our private sector partners.
Before sharing my thoughts on the Trade Facilitation Conference, I would like to acknowledge the 9/11 anniversary today. Eleven years ago, the attack in New York and Washington claimed the lives of citizens from over 90 countries, including citizens of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya. Let’s take a moment to recall that fateful day and all of the victims and their loved ones.
The attack on the World Trade Center emphasizes the central role international trade plays on the world stage as a symbol of power and wealth. Today, I want to emphasize the more important role that international trade plays as a tool for creating jobs and reducing poverty.
As you know, international trade, both intra- and extra-regional, is a central factor in regional and national economic growth with associated gains in job creation and poverty reduction. USAID considers trade as the key to the long term reduction in global poverty.
I am new to the Southern Africa region, but I am not new to international trade issues. I used to teach international trade law at the Catholic University in Quito, Ecuador, and worked with small Ecuadorian businesses exporting goods to the United States. Some years later, I led the trade capacity development team for USAID during the Central America Free Trade Agreement negotiations. I am a lawyer by training and my LLM dissertation was focused on international trade and development. I have a strong appreciation for the challenges and complexities of cross border trade.
When I arrived in Pretoria a month ago to serve as the Deputy Mission Director for the USAID Regional Program, I was particularly interested in the work of the USAID Trade Hub. Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the offices of the Trade Hub in Gabarone, and was very impressed by the staff and the resources available to the countries in the region.
In my short time in South Africa, I have learned about the exceptionally high costs of doing business in the region, the high costs of transportation and numerous non-tariff barriers and delays on the transit logistics chain. I understand that USAID and the World Customs Organization (WCO) have been providing technical support to the SADC Member states to support the implementation of trade facilitation tools.
This Conference is aimed at further sharing the very practical international best practices and programs that are being used with positive results by countries around the globe to increase their competitiveness and their ranking on the Doing Business /Trading Across Border Indices. By sharing this information, SADC countries can take deliberate steps to address the relatively low rankings that put the region at a disadvantage when it comes to trade-related investment and the promotion of local products for regional and international markets.
In just one area, I understand that Border Operations Assessments carried out by the USAID Southern Africa Trade Hub last year at some of the SADC borders found that more than 10 government agencies are resident at borders, and that they all have a direct involvement in the clearance of goods. This results in long border clearance times, as importers have to physically deliver all the required documentation to all the different offices for clearance. The additional cost associated with these delays means that local products are not competitive on the international market. The National Single Window is a proven tool that can reduce border waiting time associated with multiple clearances.
Today, you will talk further about National Single Windows, the Customs Connectivity tool, and the Customs Modernizations programs, which were presented yesterday. These trade facilitation tools have already demonstrated their utility to save time and costs in importing and exporting.
In addition to the tools discussed yesterday, the Trade Hub is providing technical assistance to SADC Member States in Coordinated Border Management, which improves border management efficiency through better coordination by border agencies and improved processes of goods clearance at the borders.
The Trade Hub also is available to assist countries in the region with the implementation of One Stop Border Posts. Later today, you will hear about the first such “one stop border post” that operates in Chirundu, which is located between Botswana and Namibia.
I would like to reiterate that the U.S. Government is very glad to partner with the World Customs Organization to host this conference on trade facilitation tools. As SADC Member States adopt and apply these tools and measures, I believe the region’s economic competitiveness will improve dramatically, creating jobs and increasing economic opportunities for all Southern Africans.
At USAID, we believe that a healthy economy reduces poverty with sustained, private sector-lead economic growth. Appropriate trade policies and practices will create conditions in Southern Africa for increased foreign investments that promote economic growth, create jobs and raise living standards.