A coalition of business associations has renewed calls for the ratification and implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) to expedite trade and clearance of goods at the country’s ports.
The TFA, which is expected to be forwarded to Cabinet for onward submission to Parliament for ratification and implementation, is currently locked up at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
The TFA, which has been dragging on in the corridors of power since 2013, sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues.
The immediate past President of the Ghana Freight Forwarders, Mr Joseph Agbaga, said the ratifications of the agreement would enhance trade and expedite the clearance of goods at the country’s ports.
The coalition, which includes the World Trade Centre, Accra, Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Ghana Employers Association (GEA), Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, Ghana Shippers Authority, Federation of Association of Ghanaian Exporters, Ghana Union of Traders Association and the Ghana National Cargo Transporters Association, maintained that when the TFA was ratified and implemented, it could raise the country’s export revenue.
The TFA, which is one of the main outcomes of the World Trade Organisation’s 9th Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia, in December 2013, aims at reducing the time and cost of international trade.
Until recently, goods used to delay at the country’s ports and borders for days and even weeks before they were cleared.
There are, however, positive signs following the successful implementation of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Reporting System (PAARS), a component of the Ghana National Single Window (GNSW) project being implemented by West Blue Consulting on behalf of the customs division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).
Since the introduction of the GNSW’s PAARS last year, traders are able to access Customs Classification and Valuation Report (CCVR) within 48 hours; in some cases within an hour that is substantial improvement from the previous situation whereby it used to take traders more than a week or two weeks just to get their CCVR, according to senior officials of the Customs Division of GRA.
The TFA will enter into force once two-thirds of WTO’s 162 members have completed their domestic ratification process. As of March 2016, out of the 80 WTO Members that had ratified, only seven of them, excluding Ghana, were from Africa out of a total of 40 African WTO Members.
Essentially, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is a place where member governments try to sort out the trade problems they face with one another.
Justification for ratification
Throwing more light on the TFA, the Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC Ghana), Mr Emmanuel Doni-Kwame, explained the need for the ratification and implementation of the trade facilitation agreement.
He said: “The issues that culminated in the drafting of the agreement have to do with issues that confront us on a daily basis and we have observed that at most ICC meetings. These issues are prevalent in developing countries, especially ours.”
“And these have to do with the uncertainties that we all encounter when we are moving goods across borders-the delays and these also affect our predictability and then they add on to transaction cost at our ports or transit ports.”
“So, TFA is for everybody, not just importers or exporters. It is for every single business entity,” Mr Doni-Kwame stated.
Currently, Ghana’s peers at the sub-region, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Senegal, have already ratified among others. For the ratification where two-thirds of members are needed to do that, but for Category A provision, over 70 least developing and developing countries have submitted their Category A activities, according to the experts.