Disruption to global supply chains accentuates strategic importance of trade facilitation
The Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation (the Alliance) annual report 2021 details a year of accelerating growth with a record number of project approvals and the completion of two major trade reform initiatives in Brazil and Colombia.
During 2021, the Alliance approved 18 new projects across Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East – up from 4 in the previous year. The Alliance now has 28 projects in implementation, spanning 30 countries.
Launching the report on Thursday, the Director of the Alliance, Philippe Isler said it demonstrated the continuing progress of the organisation and the urgency to make trade easier, faster and more cost-effective.
“The disruption to global supply chains caused by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years has brought into sharp relief the strategic importance of trade facilitation reforms to businesses and communities across the world.
“The past two years have demonstrated the remarkable capacity of our teams on the ground to remain focused, even during hard lockdowns.
“Supported virtually by our global network, our local experts and managers were able to maintain momentum and to meet established targets.”
The report details the many aspects of the Alliance’s work in developing and least developed countries, including the centrality of digitalisation in driving trade reforms and advancing implementation of the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
Public private partnership remains the cornerstone of Alliance efforts – successful trade facilitation depends on buy-in and cooperation from both sectors underpinned by trust and a willingness to work together to achieve a common goal. Measurement of time and cost benefits using business metrics demonstrate the impact of these trade reform initiatives, while also helping to cement reforms when both sectors can quantify gains.
Digitalisation also runs through Alliance projects, from modernising manual documentation processes in the agri-food sector to enhancing risk management systems at ports. As well as introducing innovative technology, the report notes that successful implementation requires leadership, training and other supports.
In 2021, the Alliance integrated measures to promote gender and small business inclusivity into all our projects, sharing its insights and best practices. Its Gender Mainstreaming Guidelines document acts as a blueprint for a commitment to tackling structural inequalities experienced by women, showing how practical, gender-sensitive actions can support equality in trade facilitation projects.
Also last year, the Alliance formalised its partnership with UNICEF in engaging government agencies, businesses, and other relevant stakeholders in speeding up imports and clearance of critical supplies and delivery to children and communities.
At a time when developing and least developed countries have been hit particularly hard, modernising outdated border processes can play a significant role in optimising long-term development programmes and ensuring that humanitarian assistance reaches people quickly in the aftermath of disasters.