WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement A Gain For Small Businesses

Published on 19 December 2013

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by Office of the Spokesperson


Washington, D.C.

Officials Attending The Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference In Bali, Indonesia
Officials Attending The Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference In Bali, Indonesia

Under a trade facilitation agreement recently completed by the World Trade Organization (WTO), small businesses will have new opportunities to benefit from international trade.

The agreement will provide increased transparency and access to customs documents, regulations and procedures and will publicize other information required for small businesses to engage in trade, according to a December 17 blog post by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). The information will be provided in a comprehensive online publication, giving small business exporters a “how-to” guide for trading with the WTO’s 160 member countries, USTR said.

In a December 8 statement following the conclusion of the WTO deliberations in Bali, Indonesia, President Obama said: “This new deal, and particularly the new trade facilitation agreement, will eliminate red tape and bureaucratic delay for goods shipped around the globe.

“Small businesses will be among the biggest winners, since they encounter the greatest difficulties in navigating the current system. By some estimates, the global economic value of the new WTO deal could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars.”

In Bali, the World Trade Organization marked the first successful conclusion of multilateral trade negotiations in its nearly two-decade history. The trade facilitation agreement, one of the results, will help make it easier for small businesses to navigate customs procedures and sell their exports to customers around the world. As the USTR noted, small businesses play an increasingly vital role in the global economy.

Among their new obligations under the agreement, WTO members will undertake to reform customs practices and increase efficiency of goods crossing borders, as well as provide access to expedited shipping channels. This is particularly important to small businesses that are developing their logistics capacities, USTR said.

With improved access to shipping channels and express carriers, small businesses will have better access to global supply chains and can export their goods in a more cost-efficient and timely manner, USTR said. In addition, the reduction of documentary requirements, processing of documents before goods arrive, use of electronic payments and quick release of perishable goods are measures in the agreement that can further reduce costs for small business exporters.

Bringing countries even halfway to “best practices” in trade facilitation would add 4.7 percent to world GDP, with much of the growth supported by small businesses, USTR said, citing World Bank and World Economic Forum statistics. And small business success, it noted, plays an important role in the growth of the global economy.


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Posted 2013-12-19 10:34:00