Apr 10, 2015 News
Recognising the importance of enhancing trade flows between Guyana and the rest of the world, the government has initiated measures to speed up global trade by reforming customs procedures.
The administration has decided to set up a National Committee on Trade Facilitation, which will suggest and implement measures to ensure seamless movement of cargo, by addressing constraints like high transaction costs.
Against this backdrop, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) yesterday commenced a workshop at its Camp Street, Georgetown Main Office geared towards sensitizing stakeholders on the implementation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation agreement.
The end result of the workshop which attracted members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, GRA staffers, as well as members of the private sector and other interested stakeholders, would be the establishment of a National Committee on Trade Facilitation that would see the adoption of the WTO agreement.
The WTO deals with the global rules of trade between nations. Its main function is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible.
According to the WTO’s website (www.wto.org), the organisation is a rules-based, member-driven organization — all decisions are made by the member governments, and the rules are the outcome of negotiations among members.
The website documents that Guyana has been a WTO member since January 1, 1995.
In December 2013, WTO members concluded negotiations on a Trade Facilitation Agreement at the Bali Ministerial Conference, as part of a wider “Bali Package”.
Since then, members of the global body have commenced a legal review of the text. In line with the decision adopted in Bali, WTO members adopted on November 27, last a Protocol of Amendment to insert the new Agreement into Annex 1A of the WTO Agreement.
The Trade Facilitation Agreement will enter into force once two-thirds of members have completed their domestic ratification process.
The Trade Facilitation Agreement 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. The trade facilitation goal requires harmony between departments like customs, shipping and ports, road transport and highways.
The WTO trade facilitation pact, signed in December 2013, contains legally binding provisions to standardise customs rules in all 159 member-countries for faster and more efficient movement of cross-border cargo.
Pursuant to the WTO agreement on trade facilitation, the policy has proposed setting up a National Committee on Trade Facilitation. That pact is aimed at easing customs procedure to reduce transactions cost for traders.
The policy said several initiatives are under way for the simplification of procedures and digitization of various processes involved in trade transactions.
Speaking at the launch of the workshop, Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh highlighted the importance of international trade to Guyana’s economy given that there is only so much that can be done locally.
Dr. Singh pointed out that for the local economy to grow; international trade would play an integral role. He reminded stakeholders that they all have a role to play in promoting Guyana to the international community.
Singh said that the GRA has made some significant strides with respect to centralizing its services to customers, but there is still work to be done.
The Minister also touted the implementation of a single window for trade transactions coming from the government. He said that though the project is in its beginning stages, it is something that the government sees as a necessity.
“Even as we implement the ultimate solution, I would like to charge you with the task of taking immediate steps to make yourself a more effective facilitator of trade relations,” the Minister charged.
He said that by doing so, it would result in minimal complaints coming from local and international importers and exporters about the length of time it takes for business transactions to be concluded.
“An importer or an exporter should not have to go multiple times to an agency to lodge an application, lodge an entry come back, chase it up, make a hundred phone calls, collect back their form, go to somewhere else to pay, somewhere else to collect their receipt and somewhere else to collect their goods…time is money,” Singh noted.
Also addressing the gathering, Commissioner General Khurshid Sattaur said, he is excited about yesterday’s event because it allowed for the participation of the private sector and other stakeholders.
He told attendees that it was a Cabinet decree directing GRA to work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other stakeholders in implementing the agreement which has already been assented to by other countries of the WTO.
He said through the implementing of this proposal, it could be expected that there will be speedier access of entries and more efficiency within GRA. Sattaur told the gathering that the Finance Minister was the driving force behind the GRA.
He underscored areas such as assessing the area of trade work, having electronic manifest, mismanagement process and inspection process of cargo that would be positively affected by this move.
Chairman of the Private Sector Committee, Ramesh Persaud told the gathering that though he is no expert in trade agreements or international trade, he was certain that a committee of this nature is definitely going to make things easier for businesses.
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