The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI) is taking steps for Parliamentary ratification of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement, concluded in Bali, Indonesia, in December 2013, Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, Minister for Trade and Industry, has disclosed.

Dr Spio-Garbrah, who was delivering the key note address at the maiden edition of the Annual National Trade Facilitation Awards (NTFA) 2016 in Accra on Saturday, noted that trade facilitation and its reforms had emerged as key factors for international trade efficiency and the economic development of countries, worlwide.

The Trade and Industry Minister said international trade was an essential tool for private sector development, economic growth and reduction in global poverty, adding that initiatives to accelerate trade through the removal of non-tariff barriers and lowered trade costs were now being increasingly recognized as key factors that affected private sector performance.

He explained that the ability of firms to deliver goods and services on time and at the lowest possible cost was a key determinant of their successful integration into the world economy, through the supply value chain and the lifting of the poor out of poverty.

He said one of the core policies of government was to ensure the speedy and efficient clearing of goods, not only at the country’s ports, but also at her borders.

It was for this reason, therefore, Dr Spio-Garbrah said, that government had carried out trade facilitation reforms by connecting Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), border points, freight forwarders and other users to the Ghana Community Network Services (GCNet); simplified Customs clearance procedures; re-oriented Customs towards trade facilitation; and deployed non-intrusive scanners as part of efforts to enhance port management and to the reduction of congestion at the ports.

He said to enhance trade facilitation, MoTI, in the year 2000, signed an agreement with GCNet, which was renewed in 2013, for GCNet to fully automate the customs clearance system, and to network other stakeholders involved in the import and export trade, to the Ghana Customs Management System (GCMS).

Furthermore, he said, by means of a single point contact, via the e-MDA portal of GCNet, more than 38 MDAs involved in trade, customs, cross border clearances, regulatory processes and payments, as well as private sector entities such as shippers, freight forwarders, importers and exporters had been connected and were able to use the deployed systems.

Dr Spio-Garbrah said the single point contact, via the e-MDA portal of GCNet enabled access to data, processing of payments, issuing of licenses, permits and exemptions electronically in exercise of their regulatory functions, and facilitated the attainment of set targets of high compliance and efficiency with minimal adverse influence of the human factor.

In an address delivered on his behalf, Dr Nortey Omaboe, Executive Director, GCNet, underscored the importance of trade facilitation, through the deployment of electronic solutions, to revenue mobilization, the performance of the economy and national development, and national security.

Dr Omaboe said so critical was trade facilitation to economic growth that it featured in trade negotiations of WTO, the Doha Development Agenda, ACP-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the recent African Union’s (AU’s) Partnership, among others.

He disclosed that significant progress had been made in trade facilitation in Ghana, through the deployment of electronic solutions, citing the issuing of 331,223 e-permits in 2015 and a total of 1287,143 e-permits in the first half of 2016.

Furthermore, he said, instead of waiting for human escorts to accompany transit cargoes, with its inherent risk to life, undue delays and cost, and cargo diversions that could hardly be accounted for, with their attendant revenue loss, among others, electronic solutions had been used effectively for the purpose.

He said despite the gains, the system was yet to attain the optimal levels required as a number of constraints had been identified.

Dr Omaboe, therefore, stressed the need to intensify efforts at sensitizing trade operators to be compliant with trade facilitation regulations.

It was, therefore, in this vein, he said, that NTFA was conceived to recognize MDAs that were working hard to ensure that their approval processes were undertaken timeously and, as much as possible, in accordance with international benchmarks while encouraging entities which remained a stumbling block to trade facilitation to consider operational changes.

He described the Awards scheme as a significant milestone in the fulfillment of the objectives of the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) mandate of GCNet.

In a welcome address, Mr Dawarnoba Baeka, Chief Director, MoTI, expressed the hope that Awards such as NTFA would propel Ghana into attaining the maximum standards of trade facilitation.

The Annual NTFA Scheme, which is based on performance for the year 2015, aimed primarily to promote and enhance efficient and effective trade practices by all actors involved in trade facilitation.

The Awards was also aimed at encouraging MDAs which routinely issue licenses, permits and exemptions for imports and exports transactions to work towards the attainment of international best practices by completing their approval and issuance within a maximum period of 48 hours and, ultimately, attain a lower processing time.

It is expected to be a competitive barometer that will spur on the trade facilitation actors to achieve excellence in efficient service provision.

The Awards scheme, organized by GCNet and MoTI, was on the theme: ‘Enhancing Efficient and Effective Trade Practices to Promote Growth’.

The categories of the Awards were Best Freight Forwarder (Small Category), Best Freight Forwarder (Large Category) and Best Ministry Department and Agency.

Transport Freight Forwarders emerged winners in the Best Freight Forwarder (Small Category), with Samelott Shipping Company as its Runner-up while Global Cargo Company was adjudged the Best Freight Forwarder (Large Category), with Bolore Transport Logistics as its Runner-up.

The Food and Drugs Authority emerged the Best Ministry Department and Agency while the Ghana Revenue Authority and the Ghana Ports and Habours Authority received special awards

Source: Government of Ghana