National Trade Facilitation Task Force Committee prepares for WTO TFA Notification
Jamaica’s Trade Facilitation Reform Programme (TFRP) is aimed at resolving procedural obstacles and impediments in Jamaica’s border regulatory procedures, in order to improve the overall business and trading environment. These reforms are expected to yield greater efficiency and business competitiveness, and form part of the Government of Jamaica’s (GOJ) overall thrust towards achieving accelerated economic growth while ensuring Jamaica implements its World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement commitments. The trade facilitation task force is chaired by Patricia Francis and is supported by a secretariat.
As party to the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), Jamaica is required to notify the WTO members of the dates by which all commitments to improve the trading environment will be delivered.
On August 9, 2019, the Trade Facilitation Task Force Secretariat hosted a working session with government members of the trade facilitation team to set Jamaica’s definitive dates for its Category C commitments. The meeting was hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and led by Shandilayne Davis of the Jamaica Customs Agency (as the agency has certain specified responsibilities under the agreement). Sharifa Powell, programme manager for trade facilitation in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF), moderated the session. Also attending was Dr Pamela Ugaz of the United Nations Congress on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). She presented on the legal implications of these notifications. The session was facilitated by the CARICOM Secretariat. Several ministries, departments and agencies with responsibility for regulating trade were also in attendance.
The TFA provides for three distinct categories of commitment, namely:
Category A: Provisions that a member state will implement by the time the agreement enters into force (or in the case of a least-developed country member within one year after entry into force).
Category B: Provisions that a member state will implement after a transitional period following the entry into force of the agreement.
Category C: Provisions that a member state will implement on a date after a transitional period following the entry into force of the agreement and requiring the acquisition of assistance and support for capacity building.
The deadline for notifying Category C commitments to the WTO is August 22, 2019.
By notifying definitive dates for its commitments, Jamaica is signalling to the international trading community its intention to undertake the stated reforms, in keeping with the TFA. The expected long-term impact of these reforms is an increase in trade flows, given the creation of a more efficient environment for import, export and transit of goods.
About the TFA
The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) entered into force on February 22, 2017. It is a result of the Doha Round of Trade Negotiations, which was launched in 2001, to facilitate effective cooperation among members on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues; expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods (including goods in transit) and to enhance technical assistance and build capacity for the implementation of the TFA.
The Trade Facilitation Reform Agenda
The Government of Jamaica’s thrust to improve its trading and business environment is reflected in Cabinet’s approval of the Trade Facilitation Reform Programmme through Cabinet Decision 6/16. Through this decision, and the creation of the Trade Facilitation Task Force, fundamental reform activities have been endorsed and are currently being implemented to bring about an efficient and modern trading arena. Activities which are being pursued include the development of Jamaica’s Electronic Single Window for Trade (JSWIFT), utilisation of risk management in regulating trade, updating outdated trade legislation and strengthening the capacity of border regulatory agencies through training and change management in a number of areas including processing, releasing and inspections of shipments.
Through funding from the World Bank Group, the Jamaica Trade Information Portal, which was launched on May 16, 2019 by Minister Audley Shaw, has enabled Jamaica to fully comply by fulfilling its TFA commitment to make available through the Internet its procedures, forms and documents for importation, exportation, and transit of goods. The portal enables traders, investors and potential investors to access all trade regulatory requirements for all commodities on a single searchable platform and seeks to simplify and modernise the way information is accessed by traders and investors.
The Shipping Association of Jamaica is a member of the Trade Facilitation Taskforce and provides a strong clear voice of advocacy for its member companies.