Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Air Freight Representatives from Forwarding to Cargo Carriers Demand Trade Barriers Lowered

WTO Must Push Through with Negotiations to Avoid Doha Debacle
Shipping News Feature

DOHA – WORLDWIDE – The latest communication from the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group (GACAG), a body which packs in all the heavy hitters involved in the supply chain, from forwarding agents to airlines, makes very plain the views of the air cargo industry regarding the recently stalled Doha Round of trade negotiations held under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and specifically designed to lower trade barriers and simplify processes, particularly to allow two way market access to developing countries. Air freight is of course especially vulnerable to the vagaries of both unstable economic factors and delays caused in any way whatsoever as despite carrying around 34% of world trade by value, goods worth around US$5 trillion annually, only a tiny percentage of overall tonnage is carried this way and financial and time constraints are often fundamental factors in choosing this mode of transport.

GACAG has come out very strongly in favour of a WTO agreement on trade facilitation saying initiatives which aim to ease international trade transactions by reducing border-related impediments to the flow of goods provide economic benefits to producers, consumers and others in the supply chain, and support economic growth. It goes further however with a thinly disguised criticism of current customs practices in many countries which see confusion and delays arising due to the opacity of the regulations in place and the imprecision and general lack of clarity for importers and exporters attempting to glean the information required for a trouble free shipment.

Michael Steen, Chairman of GACAG believes that the stalled WTO negotiations offer a crucial opportunity to achieve important trade facilitation commitments on a global scale saying that, at a minimum, a WTO trade facilitation agreement should require customs authorities to provide online information about customs practices, including regulations and whenever possible to do so both in the national language(s) and in English. It also wants to see customs administrations provide binding advance rulings and independent, administrative reviews and appeals as part of more transparent, paperless and regularly modernized procedures. He continues:

“Salvaging an agreement on trade facilitation from the Doha Round of negotiations would represent a major success for the WTO and its members and would have an enormously positive effect on the volume and flow of international trade and offer more opportunities for cost efficiencies. A near-term conclusion of a WTO trade facilitation agreement would promote simplification of customs procedures globally, and could be an important impetus to global trade and economic recovery. GACAG urges the WTO Contracting Parties to conclude their negotiations, and take any necessary steps to finalize and implement the agreement – even if that means severing the trade facilitation agreement from the rest of the Doha Round.”

Among its recommendations for customs reforms as part of a new trade facilitation agreement, GACAG wants customs authorities to promote greater integrity, including taking appropriate steps to protect the confidentiality of data. It says risk assessment should be the guiding principle in the evaluation of data and in enforcement actions and calls for a formal process to be established for consulting with the trading community on new rules and procedures.

In its position paper of WTO Trade Facilitation, the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group also wants to see post-release reconciliation and post-entry audits permitted, separate physical release of cargo from its fiscal release, the provision of a “single window” automation system applicable to all border agencies, and expedited release procedures for shipments that meet specified criteria, such as the provision in advance of relevant data in electronic format.

The members of GACAG are the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF), and The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA).