Parallel session D2:Successful NTFCs: Best Practices,Challenges and Opportunities

22 May 2024 10:00h - 11:00h

Table of contents

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Full session report

Global Forum Session Explores the Dynamics of National Trade Facilitation Committees

At a global forum, a session dedicated to National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs) was convened to discuss their successes, best practices, challenges, and opportunities. Michele Lowe of the CARICOM Secretariat chaired the panel, which included representatives from international organizations and various countries.

Mark Henderson from the WTO highlighted the significance of NTFCs in driving sustainable trade facilitation reforms. He outlined seven good practices identified by the WTO Committee, which are essential for the effective operation of NTFCs. These practices include high-level political support, broad participation from government ministries and the private sector, clear communication, defined goals and priorities, capacity building, and performance measurement.

Arántzazu Sánchez from UNCTAD drew an analogy between NTFCs and living beings, with their varying levels of success over time. She introduced the Reform Tracker, a web-based tool designed to assist NTFCs in monitoring and managing trade facilitation reforms. The tool, launched in 2021 and enhanced in 2023, aims to improve communication and stakeholder engagement through features such as a dedicated NTFC website section, resource page, and monthly newsletter.

Karen Mirtala Sosa Salgado from Honduras' Ministry of Economic Development shared her country's experience with NTFCs, emphasizing the significant role of women and the challenges of involving the private sector. She stressed the importance of continuous training to address staff turnover and sustain trade facilitation reforms. Karen also discussed the use of the Reform Tracker in Honduras, which has supported institutional coordination and enabled the country to achieve a 93.3% implementation rate of the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Alina Monica Antoci from the World Bank Group focused on the private sector's crucial role in NTFCs, the value of regional initiatives, and practical examples of NTFCs' work globally. She emphasized the need for early private sector involvement in discussions and representation from diverse interests, including SMEs and women-led firms. Alina also addressed the challenges of building trust for data sharing among agencies, which is vital for coordinated border management.

The session concluded with an interactive segment where participants shared their experiences and sought advice on NTFC-related issues. Although time constraints limited the discussion, it was expected to continue informally throughout the event.

Key observations from the session included the recognition of the individual NTFC members' pivotal role as champions of success. The discussion highlighted the progressive nature of private sector engagement in trade facilitation reforms, requiring sustained dialogue and high-level authority engagement. Additionally, the session underscored the importance of country-driven initiatives for including gender and vulnerable groups, as demonstrated by Eswatini's approach to drafting their Trade Facilitation Roadmap.

In summary, the session provided a comprehensive overview of NTFCs' multifaceted role in trade facilitation, the challenges they encounter, and the tools and strategies that support their effectiveness. It also highlighted the ongoing need for collaboration, capacity building, and fostering trust among all stakeholders involved in trade facilitation.

Session transcript

Michele Lowe:
Thank you, everyone, and we're getting ready to go into Session 2, and Session 2 this morning is dealing with successful NTFCs, best practices, challenges, and opportunities. My panel includes someone who will be from Honduras, and those of you who need headsets for interpretation, we encourage you to get them from now, because the presentation will be in Spanish. My name is Michele Lowe, I am with the CARICOM Secretariat. I am very, very pleased to be here and to be working with Paul and his excellent team from UN Trade and Development. This panel will reinforce some of the messages that we've already heard this morning. I think we had some very good messages so far, so we want to continue the good messaging going forward throughout this entire global forum, NTFC forum. A key message that we already heard was that collaboration and coordination involving all stakeholders in the public and private sector are essential drivers for sustainable trade facilitation reforms, both at the national and the regional levels. So NTFCs, as Mark said, are the hub. For me, they are the engine room, and part of that engine room also must include international partnerships. So I'm very pleased to be joined on the podium by representatives from the international Annex D organizations, which the CARICOM Secretariat has been working very closely to support NTFCs in CARICOM, and certainly has been working with all stakeholders. other regions and countries in terms of supporting their national trade facilitation committees. So what are some of the essential building blocks and successes that drive NTFCs? Our session this morning will explore diverse experiences, analyzing effective strategies for establishing and strengthening NTFCs, but also looking at some of the challenges and the risks. So I'm pleased to be joined by Mark Henderson from the WTO, who you've already heard from, Arántzazu Sánchez from UN Trade and Development. UNCTAD has been doing quite a lot of work in the region with us. We have a national experience that will be shared from Honduras from Karen Sosa, who is from the Ministry of Economic Development of Honduras and the Trade Facilitation Coordinator for her National Trade Facilitation Committee. And we have Alina Antoci from the World Bank Group. So this is going to be a conversation, an interactive conversation, led by our presenters. But certainly, we want to include everyone in this discussion. And therefore, to the extent that we can have a sharing of best practices, challenges, et cetera, we'd like to encourage you, please participate. Please contribute to the dialogue. I'll be taking the presenters first, so all the presentations will be done first, and then we'll open up with the conversation and dialogue. So with that, I'd like to invite Mark, and we'll sit. It will be very interactive. So Mark, over to you.

Mark Henderson:
Thanks, Michele. Oh, that was a bit of a shock. Sorry, everybody. Thanks, Michele. Yes, it's a pleasure to speak on this topic. And as I mentioned in the opening, if you heard me speak, one of the things I would like to do is to link the discussion and our efforts with the Committee on Trade Facilitation in the WTO in Geneva. So that will largely form the basis for my intervention. Best practices of NTFCs has been a long-term topic of attention in the WTO Committee. Experience sharing has been on the agenda, and it's been a continuous item since May 2018. And over 25 presentations or papers have been presented to the Committee. And they're available online on the TFA database if you want to explore those, and I think that would be an important place and resource for you to check. During the four-year review of the TFA in 2021, the Committee decided to draft a document on good practices and building blocks for successful committees. That document was last discussed in the Committee in September, and its reference number is GTFAW96REV1. It's the very accessible and user-friendly referencing numbers that we use in the WTO. If you want that from me, I'll be happy to share it, of course. But it identifies seven good practices and building blocks, and I'm going to run through those quickly for you now. First of all, and these are very evident to us all who work on NTFCs, but the important point is that they've been captured in the work of the Committee in Geneva. So first of all, a high-level political support for the NTFC with a clear committee structure. Wide participation and representation by border authorities and other government ministries. • Private sector participation, as has been mentioned a few times already this morning. • Clear communication flow, that's how it can act as the hub that we discussed. • Clear goals and priorities necessary to drive reform processes forward. • Capacity building and training programs for NTFC members and their secretariats. • And importantly, performance measurement and monitoring, again an essential element of the reform process. So those are the seven good practices and principles captured in the document. I'd now like to propose some next steps. If you're sitting there and you have a good practice or principle that you think is not reflected in that list, get involved in the document, in the discussions in the committee. And you can do that by, as an NTFC, presenting your own success and challenges on this topic under that agenda item on experience sharing. You can also instruct your Geneva delegate to engage in the discussions and share your inputs either individually or as part of a group or a region. As for the TFA facility, we're always in the process of engaging with the National Trade Facilitation Committees and at the regional level, observing their procedures and comparing them with others in similar situations. We share these insights with the committee via our regular reporting and with donors and development partners in our discussions with them. And in October, alongside the dedicated session on technical assistance and capacity building, which is an important moment in the calendar of the committee. If common challenges or capacity gaps are observed, then we look to respond to those often. together with the partners such as those on the panel or as TFAF bilaterally as needed. So I want to keep my intervention short so that we can discuss in the room and that concludes my input for the moment. Thank you.

Arántzazu Sánchez Belastegui:
I don't know if I used this or this one. If you could put the presentation up. So let me see if it works. Yes, it works. Perfect. So thank you very much for having me in the panel and for the cheering of my fan club. So for the past 12 years I have dedicated myself to the study of the NTFCs. I have written several studies on NTFCs, looked into it, I have worked with around 40 countries and looking into all of this I have realized two things. First is that NTFCs are like human beings. They go through life without having everything figured out. So they may have good years and years where at the end of the year you are just happy that you are still alive and breathing. So my point is what makes a good and a bad year in an NTFC? What is the difference between a successful or a not so successful NTFC? So when you inquire about these success factors, you have the list that Mark gave to you. They inquire to the NTFCs at the WTO and the WTO members. This is the list that you can see. So when you inquire about the key success factors, the most highlighted ones are political support, financial resources, private sector involvement, and we have lots of statistics about those in our database. And indeed, these elements are crucial. However, what often goes unnoticed and unacknowledged by NTFC members is their own pivotal role. Even for the most well-organized national trade facilitation committees, its sustainability hinged on having a champion. And today in this room, actually, it's full of champions. I can see many of them on the panel. We have Karen. But in the audience, I can see so many faces with whom I'm working, and I have the privilege to witness many of you passionately dedicating yourself, investing your souls to make things happen against all odds. And the odds are sometimes really bad, right? But still, you're there fighting to move things forward. So dear audience, never underestimate the profound influence that each of you can exert on the success of your NTFC. Those of you serving as part of the secretariat of an NTFC, you know that this is a challenging role, and tools might be essential to help you. In 2021, responding to the needs of the NTFCs to better monitor and enhance the work of the committee, the UN Trade and Development launched the Reform Tracker, which is a web-based management and monitoring tool. Since then, And in 2023, following extensive discussions with countries, missions on the field, where we used the tool with the NTFCs, it became evident to us that some enhancements were necessary to ensure greater flexibility and user-friendliness of the tool. And after months of diligent effort, I'm thrilled to unveil the Upgrade Reform Tracker to you. You are the first ones that are going to... This mic, it's killing me. The Upgrade Reform Tracker has a fresh design that prioritizes user-friendliness to ensure intuitive navigation across devices. Understanding, holding all insights and details of transportation reforms and networks in your country are your fingertips, and we made it possible. Thank you very much. So the new Reform Tracker includes a flexible planning approach that enables you to generate as many clusters of reforms, groupings of reforms, as you need, but retain full, complete control of the access rights of each cluster. What does this mean? In other words, the Reform Tracker could now be used to monitor the implementation of agency-specific programs, not just the NTFC, such as, for instance, the Customs Modernization Program, making sure that only customs officials have access to that particular cluster. So it gives really a lot of flexibility to the current NTFC and to the current Reform Tracker. For each cluster, you can include precise key performance indicators, following best practices to create your own result framework. Hence, you can easily track the progress of the different indicators against baselines and targets. All KPIs are easily traceable in the ReformTracker statistics dashboards with full accountability. And you can leverage it with its filtering options to identify trait and patterns effectively. So these are some examples of the statistics dashboards. So but another thing that we noticed over the past years is because the committees are more like set up and more really able to deal with the basic roles is that more and more committees are looking forward to be better communicators. And responding to that need, the new ReformTracker puts the communication capacities of the national trait facilitation committees at the forefront of the tool with a dedicated NTFC website section, a resource page, and a monthly newsletter that are now available on the NTFC for all of the NTFCs. And it empowers them to effectively engage with stakeholders. The user will find everything looking for in just one place, the ReformTracker dashboard. There are no excuses for late implementation. All to-dos can be easily traced, and notifications with reminders are sent to the persons in charge. We have a favorite function where you can say, these are the reforms that I want to follow. And you can easily access all of them through the little star icon. And if you are just curious to see what's going on in your country, users can find the recently updated reforms right at the beginning of the dashboard. Administrators have access to a dedicated dashboard for closely monitoring changes in a more detailed manner. So this is really like responding to one of the points that Mark was saying, right? Monitoring the implementation of the reforms is crucial to the NTFCs. When you select a reform, you can access several tabs full of information like the reform description, the team implementing the reform, the tasks that have been created to ensure the full implementation of the reform. Under the monitoring tab, you can find the latest updates of the reform. Key documents for the reform are also gathered in the tracker. And you will have a dedicated space to show all meetings that were organized for that particular reform. I hope that you are as excited about all these new developments as I am. We are now in 2024 starting the piloting of the tool in Egypt. And we will continue through the European summer, so July, August, September, to move it into the nearly 30 countries that are now using the reform tracker across all continents. If you wish to know more, around November we will organize an event where everyone will be invited to join and to see how countries are really using the new tool. And also, you just mentioned that we do a lot of studies on NTFCs. So we have got the first data on the level of operationalization of NTFCs. We are trying to figure out whether, like with the wines, whether 2023 was a good year or a bad year for NTFCs. And this data will soon be published as well in the UNCTAD site. So before I leave, let me share again with you the three main points of my presentation. Do not get demotivated if your NTFC is having a bad year. Believe in your capacity to change the way forward, and if you are struggling, reach out for help if you need it to all the partners. We have tools like the Reform Tracker, among others, and we are ready here to give you a hand or even a hug if you need it. So thank you very much.

Karen Mirtala Sosa Salgado:
Desde el 2021 venimos trabajando con UNTAC y ellos han presenciado la participación masiva que tenemos de la mujer en todos los espacios de comercio. Nuestro comité tiene bastante participación. Si bien es cierto, la toma de decisiones descansa en los hombros del sexo masculino, pero las mujeres tenemos el tema de la participación, el tema de cómo proceder con todas estas acciones que se realizan en ese seno. También, bajo la coordinación, este comité se encuentra bajo la coordinación de la Secretaría de Desarrollo Económico. Nosotros tenemos lo que es la presidencia, por decirlo así, que está bajo la coordinación de mi viceministro. La Secretaría Técnica también está bajo el seno del Ministerio de Economía, como lo conocen los demás países. En esa sí tengo bastante participación activa, porque estoy apoyando a la presidencia, pero también coordino lo que es el tema de la Secretaría Técnica. No es un trabajo fácil, más cuando los países como los nuestros no contamos con el personal o el recurso humano necesario para cubrir todas estas áreas. Lo hacemos hasta lo imposible, como decía Aranza. El tema de la pasión, el compromiso con este tema nos ayuda a salir adelante y tener nuestras banderas de éxito a nivel nacional, regional, y ya nos estamos dando a conocer a nivel global con este tipo de espacios. Otro tema muy importante en los comités es el tema de la capacitación continua. También hemos sido beneficiados por parte de la UNTA con el programa de empoderamiento en los Comités Nacionales de Facilitación de Comercio. Yo creo que lo que voy a mencionar lo vivimos todos los países, que es el tema de la rotación de personal. Y ese es un tema que… que desbalanza a veces los temas o el avance en los temas que se tocan en el comité, y el tema de capacitación continua, el empoderamiento nos ayuda a todos manejar esta temática, y si no sabemos, pues aprenderla de una, ¿verdad? Y el tema de seguir aprendiendo es un tema que tenemos que manejarlo muy al día, la capacitación continua. Creo que aquí hay una, un pequeño estructura de cómo está conformado nuestro Comité Nacional de Facilitación de Comercio. Ustedes pueden visualizar en pantalla que tenemos amplia participación de las instituciones que participa, que intervienen en frontera, así como la importancia de lo que es la participación del sector privado. Si ustedes pueden ver, tenemos el tema bajo la sombría de COE, que es nuestro Consejo Hondureño de la Empresa Privada. Yo creo que algunos de acá ya lo conocen. Tenemos el sector industrial, tenemos los exportadores, el tema logístico, transporte, el sector productivo y el sector agroindustrial. Como les mencioné, y es importante repetirlo, que el tema de la voz y el voto es muy importante porque los hace sentir parte en todas esas decisiones y nosotros como gobiernos tenemos ese compromiso con ellos porque ellos son nuestros usuarios. Entonces, ellos tienen que estar enterados de todo lo que sucede en este seno. También es importante mencionar, ya Aranza dio una presentación magistral de lo que es el monitoreo o las plataformas de monitoreo digital. En este caso, vamos a hablar del Reform Tracker, que es la reforma que nos permite darle seguimiento a las reformas de facilitación de comercio Para ser más exactos, podemos implementarlo en el seguimiento del acuerdo de facilitación de comercio o bien también en actividades o proyectos nacionales que tenemos, que hay una modalidad que se llama AFC Plus, que nosotros podemos enlistar nuestros proyectos nacionales y darles el seguimiento. Gracias a esta herramienta que somos usuarios desde el 2021, que también esta iniciativa de cooperación between UNTAC and Honduras, came up in a forum like this, in an approach with UNTAC, in this case with my dear Pamela, that we had the opportunity to meet at an event and we started talking, and that's where the issue of cooperation came up, both for the empowerment program of the National Committees on Trade Facilitation, the ReformTracket, and also the... Oh, I forgot the name, but we have another one, a study of the rapid scanning that is in response to emergency issues. At this time, we did it with COVID-19, but we also have very good elements of implementation at the national level, because it's not just COVID, we have different emergency issues that can affect our countries. So, the use of the tool of monitoring and implementation of reforms, what was the issue that benefited us? It came to strengthen the issue of institutional coordination, because within this tool, and I know it happened very quickly before, but within this tool, we have the opportunity to have workgroups for the implementation of each of the measures of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, and this greatly facilitates monitoring and implementation of these measures. The issue of assignment of roles and responsibilities is very important, because that is an issue that I think we have all faced. No, the presidency is the one that has to monitor everything, not everyone has participation, and we all have responsibilities in the implementation of the measures. Another very important issue that fills me with satisfaction to mention is the issue of the level of implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, although in 2019, when it was... the implementation of the agreement. Today, as they say in my town, my heart aches to tell you when we have a 93.3% implementation. This is thanks to the monitoring that we have given to the compliance of the measures, the notifications on time, which is very important. Also, when we look at the implementation of the agreement, it is very important that the implementation of the agreement, it is very important. Also, when we look at the platform of the OMC, we can see that we do not have pending measures. Basically, that's it. And quickly, to finish, I also wanted to talk to you about what is the subject of our Central American Trade Facilitation Strategy, a very important issue, that we have with the participation in the process of deep integration of Central American economic integration, that we have the participation of CICA, which is also supporting us. We also have the issue of Central American integration through CICA, and it is important to mention that we have held a national regional meeting of the National Trade Facilitation Committee. In June, we are going to hold our second regional meeting, and we are also visualizing implementing a reform tracker at a regional level to give monitoring to our new Central American Trade Facilitation Strategy. I could talk more about all this, but I would stop here, and thank you very much for your attention. Thank you.

Alina Monica Antoci:
Thank you, Michele, and it's been very interesting to hear the various perspectives from our speakers here today. What I would like to focus on, I'm not sure, is this working well? I hear some mumbling. What I would like to focus here today, again, is to perhaps add three elements. One, the importance of the private sector. Then I would like to focus a little bit on some regional initiatives within trade facilitation committees that we have been supporting. And then finally, I'd like to give a couple of examples of practical work that NTFCs that we have worked with around the world have taken in terms of implementing the TFA and kind of keeping that momentum going forward, including from one of our counterparts, which unfortunately couldn't make it to the panel today, so I'm going to do it on her behalf. So first of all, the private sector. The private sector, it's a key player in the National Trade Facilitation Committees. I gave an example this morning of the, you know, I'm part of that solution. That message is very, very important because it makes you feel that you are important, your voice needs to be heard. You have something to contribute to. And who else would be better to contribute in terms of the National Trade Facilitation Committees than the private sector, who are actually at the forefront of trade? They actually confront themselves with many challenges and can bring practical solutions to the table if consulted regularly, and also if brought into the discussion early on, not just when problems arise. So that contribution of the private sector, it's very, very critical. Now I would like to perhaps emphasize a little bit the flexibility that the WTO TFA gives to implementations at the regional level. So it allows you to take that original perspective. So the World Bank Group has been supporting for the past few years implementation of two – or I should say the development and implementation of two regional trade facilitation strategies, one of which was for the CARICOM region, and the second one, which we developed together with – actually with Michel, who has been very active in supporting the CARICOM strategy to develop a similar one in the Pacific Islands. And to develop that strategy, it took about, you know, two and a half or so, three years for the trade facilitation strategy in the Pacific. And in fact, we are going to launch the final document that was approved last year by the Forum Trade Ministers at the upcoming Aid for Trade Review in Geneva from the 26th to the 28th of June. And we have, of course, invited Michel. She will contribute. She has been very supportive along the way to provide the lessons learned from the implementation of the CARICOM strategy that have been taken on board for the development of the trade facilitation strategy in the Pacific. So it's very important to bring those experiences, because really what we learn from the best, it's from others who have been there, have done that, right? And you know, nobody's perfect. We all face challenges, and I think it's very important to learn from each other on how do you address some of the challenges, but also how do you keep steady and move forward. So if you are at the Aid for Trade in Geneva end of June, please, we invite you to join our session on the launch of the Pacific Islands Trade Facilitation Strategy. Now in the Trade Facilitation Strategy for the Pacific, we've taken an approach to identify several thematic areas which are a bit more tangible to understand and also to to look forward in terms of implementation. So, of course, the whole of the government approach is the building block in implementing any trade facilitation reforms, because there are many players, many agencies, and you need to involve everyone alike. Border agency collaboration, coordination, transparency, and predictability, and that importance of the access to information. Followed by digitization, automation, and facilitating benefits for compliant traders. And again, the importance of taking that regional approach to implementing trade facilitation reforms. So for both strategies, we have also developed, or let's say starting to support regional NTFC. So bringing together some of those areas where synergies can take place, and look at it from that regional perspective, it's very important. And there are many areas that can be looked, and can be learned from at the regional level, including implementation of a single window, perhaps an advanced ruling mechanism. Risk management, it's also something that could be looked at from a regional perspective. So, you know, only to say that once the trade facilitation committees at the national level are proactive, and lead trade facilitation reforms, they can also contribute to that regional perspective. So I would like to also now perhaps give some examples on how we started the work with some of the NTFCs, you know, at the very beginning. So in the morning presentation, I highlighted our building blocks. You know, we first undertake a TFA gap analysis assessment to look at the. status quo at the current situation, at gaps in implementation, we put together an action plan that is then taken forward by the NTFC. And what do they do next? It's very challenging. You have many measures, many recommendations. So it's very daunting task for an NTFC that has been just established to kind of look and see, okay, where are my priorities, where shall we start, you know? How do we do this? And I have a couple of examples here that I just highlighted, a couple of key points, many of which I have, again, participated directly in the establishment and support of these NTFCs, one of which is Fiji. I was looking for our client from Fiji, but I believe she's in another parallel session. But in Fiji, we established the National Trade Facilitation Committee as a body co-led by the Ministry of Trade and the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service, Customs. And at the onset, the committee identified and focused on removing the barriers that delayed cargo and added cost to the business community. So they took on, let's say, an initiative that you will say is perhaps a pilot to reduce those costs and implement what we call a single manifest, electronic single manifest. So that initiative really focused on one specific target, took on a walk through the procedures and systems, all the border agencies involved, so they can all understand what is the task at hand, how can we help each other resolve and kind of reduce the costs for the business community. And finally, what happened is that in the end, there were some processes that needed to be changed, some digitization of processes to make sure that the manifest is being seen by other border agencies as well. As an example, the Ministry of Health. could only see 50% of that document, therefore they couldn't screen for any risk consignments that they were under the Ministry of Health. So with the help of the agency, Biosecurity Agency and Customs, the manifest was now made available to other border agencies for screening, advanced screening. And that, of course, reduced the time and cost for manifest processing times from three, four days to almost three, four minutes. And, you know, you would think, okay, and so what? Well, that was a small success, right? A small success on an initiative that was very targeted that the NTFC now can take forward and demonstrate. This is the type of work we need to do with you. You know, and it's definitely now comes more tangible. People can see the benefits, they can feel it, and they would like to then contribute to more complex initiatives. So again, in Fiji, the National Trade Facilitation Committee has several working groups established underneath, some of which look at the implementation of the single window or risk management, implementation of a time-release study, and test procedures working group. So now that that momentum has been initiated, the NTFC, it's much more empowered to go forward with implementing more complex measures. And the other aspect that I think I need to mention again is, you know, the TFA has many articles, and it's a legal agreement, right? But many of these articles actually contribute to each other. So when you look at them individually, they kind of are, you know, sometimes you don't know exactly how do they relate, but many of them relate to each other. So when you establish some of these working groups, you're trying to bring together some of these articles that contribute to each other. To give an example, you know, if you want to implement a single window, you first need to look at the documentary requirements. at the fees and charges, at the publication of procedures, collaboration, coordination, you know, all of these are TFA articles. But of course, some countries begin to look just at one. I want a single window. Well, let's start somewhere. So there are many measures that need to be started early on in order for you to achieve that long-term measure that is perhaps more complex to implement. I'll give again the example of Egypt because our colleague Ms. Iman, the head of the Secretariat for the NTFC, wasn't able to join us this morning. So in Egypt, we started our work about four, actually five years ago. And we started with supporting the National Trade Facilitation Committee. You know, it was a difficult discussion, you know, border agencies like to work in silos. So it wasn't an easy task to bring them all together. And to fast forward a little bit, it's been only since maybe about a year and a half ago that the NTFC has taken shape a little bit more in terms of driving those reforms. And what has led to that? Well, in Egypt, we have had many discussions with border agencies and put together again two major documents that have been brought forward, in fact, this month to the Prime Minister's Office for approval. One is the Trade Facilitation Strategy for Egypt, which again looks at TFA and beyond. Also at the country's goals and what it wants to achieve. And that Trade Facilitation Strategy again brings together a couple of thematic areas that are very critical in implementing trade facilitation reforms with tangible KPIs and forward-looking implementation action plan. The second one, which again it's a very key measure in the TFA, it's risk management. So again in Egypt, under the auspices of the NTFC, an integrated risk management framework policy document has been produced. with the help of all agencies involved, and that's why it has taken two and a half years, because those discussions and the dialogue to build to the understanding of the integrated risk framework has to be given, let's say, reasonable time so that each agency understands their role in this particular initiative, and why is it important that risk management is looked at from an integrated fashion? We also, again, under the auspices of the NTFC in Egypt, supported three, at the moment, time-release studies. First time-release study at the Port of Alexandria was undertaken actually during COVID, and validated once we were able to travel. It established, of course, that baseline, but it also helped measure progress in implementing other reforms. Which brings me to my final point for Egypt. The role of the NTFCs is there to drive reform, but also, most importantly, is to communicate success. Once you have a success and you have that momentum, you need to also inform the key stakeholders and bring them in that success that they contributed to. And finally, of course, in Egypt, they also started, as I think Arántzazu mentioned, the use of the reform tracker to put together some of these reforms in a more, let's say, easy-to-follow fashion. So that has been very helpful, and I know my colleague, Iman, would have mentioned that as well. So following to the communication, in Angola, for instance, we have also supported the NTFC to put together a communication and information strategy. Because as you go forward on implementation, you realize that actually it's very, very important to communicate that success and to have a clear messaging. to emphasize and re-emphasize the benefits of the TFA to both government and the private sector. And this activity cannot stop. It has to be continuous. Even if you have advanced and you are close to full implementation, it is still very critical to remind everybody that they contributed to this success, and to give back, and to acknowledge the progress made so far was with the help of key stakeholders. So again, in Angola, that communication strategy was very, very useful to share those results on the reforms undertaken. So I'll stop here. I had another example from Montenegro, but I see Michelle perhaps wanting to start some conversation here. So I'll stop here. Thank you very much.

Michele Lowe:
Thank you so very much. I want to open the floor. But I wanted to just highlight for just two key issues and two messages, messaging that I heard from Karen's presentation and certainly from yours, Alina. The issue of gender perspective and gender balance in the constitution of an operation of your National Trade Facilitation Committee and the issue of private sector participation. We've been speaking about successes. We've been speaking about opportunities. I want to speak about the challenges. What are the challenges that you have found, for example, Karen, as it relates to involving private sector and ensuring that the private sector influences the role of private sector? the agenda for trade facilitation reform in Honduras?

Karen Mirtala Sosa Salgado:
Okay. Creo que desde el inicio, desde el inicio ha sido un reto el tema del sector privado, pero ha sido un reto que prácticamente lo hemos superado. No ha sido de la noche a la mañana, verdad, sino que lleva su tiempo. Desde que se creó el PCM que le da vida a nuestro comité se involucró al sector privado. Ellos tuvieron desde la construcción del PCM, cuáles iban a ser las funciones y todas las tareas que iba a realizar el comité. Entonces, ¿cómo se involucró? Desde el inicio, creo que en el tema del comité no ha sido un reto tan difícil. Siempre hay diferencias como en todo, verdad, en todos los países, pero siempre buscamos la manera de involucrarlos en todas las decisiones que hemos tomado Vamos a tomar desde nuestro primer plan estratégico que realizamos en el marco del comité. Ellos tuvieron participación activa en todos los talleres nacionales y a nivel regional también han tenido una participación activa. Somos uno de los países de la región que también hemos caracterizado por esa comunicación tan amistosa con el comité, pero creo que eso tiene que ver mucho también con el tema del involucramiento de las autoridades al más alto nivel y el diálogo continuo que hay con el sector.

Michele Lowe:
Thank you very much. I don't know if anyone else from the panel wants to highlight any specific challenges that have arisen in relation to how you incorporate and engage the private sector in the NTFCs and the regional committees as well. Any of my panel want to take that? If not, we can always open it up to the floor. So, I'm sure we have representatives from many national trade facilitation committees here. Can I see your hands if you are a chair or a coordinator of a national trade facilitation committee? So, we've heard a wide-ranging presentation from institutions, international partners, and from a national committee on trade facilitation. Can I open it up, therefore, to perspectives, questions, comments from the grouping here that can add to the dialogue on best practices, challenges, and opportunities? So, who will take it first? No, are you putting?

Audience:
Southern African, France.

Michele Lowe:
Okay, great.

Audience:
Not South Africa, Southern African, France. Thank you so much, and good morning to everyone in the room and the participants. And thank you very much to the panelists for opening up the discussions on the NTFCs. I don't have a question, or maybe, my name is Victoria Arada, Wayulu. I am the chairperson for Namibia's National Trade Facilitation Committee on behalf of our Customs Administration. Now, mine is not so much a question, but I want to underscore something that Aruncha highlighted in her presentation, which is really that, I know we've been talking about coordination as one of the most important challenges for NTFCs, but she then said, look, yes, there is coordination, but one of the other challenges is capacity building for National Trade Facilitation Committees. And I think for Southern Africa especially, we have been very fortunate to have been working with UNCTAD and especially with Arantxa in making sure that our NTFCs have been capacitated. Because what that do is it ensures continuity and sustainability. They now know that, all right, there are these factors that we need to have in place as an NTFC for the successful sustainability and efficient functioning of an NTFC. And I think without that support, especially from UNCTAD, it will be difficult to ensure that NTFCs are used indeed as an efficient platform to foster that public-private sector dialogue. So, for me, really just a hands up again, I want to applaud UNCTAD and again also WCO, the Accelerate Trade Facilitation Program, for really capacitating institutional frameworks to be able to implement the trade facilitation reform agenda at national level. Thank you so much.

Michele Lowe:
Thank you very much, Namibian. Welcome to the Caribbean.

Audience:
Thank you.

Michele Lowe:
Yes. Was there someone else from South Africa who wanted to speak? And then I'll come to you.

Audience:
Thank you. My name is Ketsiwe Lamini from the Kingdom of Eswatini. Mine is on the gender aspect in our National Trade Facilitation Committee. For Eswatini, this is a topic we included from the beginning, but now we even include it in our roadmap. So, in the country's trade facilitation roadmap, we have one goal, which is on the inclusion of gender issues in our national trade facilitation. and it also includes the youth. So these are subjects that are new, so we really want to put more effort on that. And we also made an effort to include more women in our National Facilitation Committee. Of course, we know that positions change, but I think the percentage of females is quite high. Even in our Secretariat, we have more women than men. So we really put more effort on that, thank you.

Michele Lowe:
Thank you. Okay, sure, and then we go to Global Alliance.

Arántzazu Sánchez Belastegui:
Just to comment on this one, back in September, we went to Swatini to draft with them a Tri-Facilitation Roadmap. And these issues of the inclusion of the vulnerable, the gender, I always have this impression that it's developing partners that are kind of bringing these topics into or raising awareness about these topics. But what happened back in Swatini was that they selected the people that were going to sit in the room to draft this new Tri-Facilitation Roadmap, and among them, they invited a part of the government that was specifically for the representation of gender and vulnerable groups. So they went there and they kind of presenting the views and forcing to the rest of the group the importance of having a goal specific on this. So it was, for me, it was a very nice moment, but because it was really country-driven. It was not of our influence or any of the other development partners. So, very good.

Michele Lowe:
Thank you. We're going to give the final word, and we're sorry that we have to cut it short. We have to be on time for the next session. So go ahead.

Audience:
Thank you for the privilege. So let me be very quick. So my first question is for – I have two quick questions. One for Alina. Alina, when you mentioned that it was hard to work with the private sector, can you say why? So what was the issue or issues that made it hard to get the private sector to work? Because that's what we're looking for, that best practice, right? And my second point – or my second question to mostly to Alina and Arantxa, but to anybody in general, one of the hardest things in the trade facilitation environment is the trust that's necessary for agencies to share data, right? And because this work is all moving towards coordinated border management, Central America is doing a beautiful job of this already, moving in this direction, one would think that the NTFCs play a – or should play a key role, not necessarily in the exchange of data itself, because there are vehicles for that, but certainly in building the kind of policy trust or relationships that could pivot towards that. And I've heard both of you say the difficulties and the complications, et cetera. In your experience, do you see the NTFCs perhaps supporting that role or building that kind of trust or whatever role it is that could lead to data sharing across agencies? Thank you.

Michele Lowe:
Very quickly, so that we can – yeah, sorry.

Alina Monica Antoci:
Thank you, Raul, yes? So well, I guess my comment with the private sector was more in a sense that if you want the private sector to contribute and bring those solutions, you need to involve them early on at the table. And in the example I gave from the Fiji National Trade Facilitation Committee, that first initiative that – to implement the single window – the single manifest initiative was actually brought by the private sector. who actually identified that bottleneck and kind of brought it forward and supported that whole initiative going forward. In fact, we even have a video feature that we produced to emphasize how the private sector kick-started that reform and brought, in a way, all the agencies together. Now, of course, that's not everywhere the case, and what you want, you want the private sector at the table continuously. So the challenge is you actually, as an NTFC, need to make sure that messages are communicated clearly and the benefits to both government and private sector are clearly communicated and discussed. And sometimes private sector, they may have different voices. So it's important that in the National Trade Facilitation Committee you have a wide range of private sector being involved. So not just one voice, but perhaps many voices that you can hear from, including the voice of the SMEs, for instance. And I also wanted to pick on the comment on the gender and trade facilitation. Again, we did several surveys in the Pacific and in other countries around the world on challenges that women-led firms face in trade facilitation. And there were some clear messages, one of which was there are not many represented in the NTFCs, or perhaps they are not aware of simplified procedures or AEOs that are being offered. So again, that knowledge that we gathered through these surveys, we brought back to the NTFCs. We're starting to bring back to the NTFCs after, again, more consultations with the private sector to ensure that those messages are still there, and take one or two measures and put them in the action plan going forward. And I think your second question was with the exchange of data and how you build the trust, right? Well, again, you have to do that alongside some measure that, you know, not just in principle it's important to share data. But I think from my experience to build that trust with the private sector long term, it takes years. I mean, the best examples I've seen, it's in most developed countries where actually the National Trade Facilitation Committees and the private sector share data with the government and you don't see that very often. In many countries that we work with, the government tries to, you know, make sure that the private sector is compliant rather than already bring them into that trust where they are willing to share the information and the data. But that is the trend and that is the discussion that it's continuously driven by the NTFCs to build that trust. But you have to build that trust by actually making some reforms happen, bringing some success and that's what brings them in turn. Thank you.

Michele Lowe:
Okay. So, I'm so sorry that the conversation has had to be rushed, but it will continue throughout the day and into tomorrow. Certainly invite you to have the conversations in the corridors, etc. I certainly want to thank you for being here. I certainly, as CARICOM, would like to continue to express my own gratitude for the partnerships developed with TFAF, UNTAD, and the World Bank Group, and certainly with other groups that we've been – international partners that we've been working. And we look forward to continuing the dialogue and the collaboration. Thank you very much and let's move on to the next session.

AM

Alina Monica Antoci

Speech speed

163 words per minute

Speech length

3016 words

Speech time

1109 secs

AS

Arántzazu Sánchez Belastegui

Speech speed

145 words per minute

Speech length

1599 words

Speech time

663 secs

A

Audience

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157 words per minute

Speech length

722 words

Speech time

277 secs

KM

Karen Mirtala Sosa Salgado

Speech speed

160 words per minute

Speech length

1518 words

Speech time

570 secs

MH

Mark Henderson

Speech speed

148 words per minute

Speech length

655 words

Speech time

265 secs

ML

Michele Lowe

Speech speed

139 words per minute

Speech length

1031 words

Speech time

446 secs