Caribbean Nations Complete US and WTO Trade Facilitation

Reports coming out of Puerto Rico where the workshop was held over the period 15-19 November, indicate that customs and ministerial officials from twelve Caribbean countries, including St. Kitts and Nevis, participated in the seminar, organized by World Trade Organization (WTO) and hosted by the United States government, in particular the Office of the US Trade Representative and United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Along with a representative of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), officials from Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago were present at the meeting.

CBP staff from the Office of Trade, Office of Information Technology, and Office of Administration provided guidance and lessons learned in the activities the United States has implemented that appear in the current draft negotiating text, through various programs such as the Importer Security Filing (10+2), Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), and Importer Self-Assessment (ISA), among others.

Participants visited the Port of San Juan, where CBP San Juan Office of Field Operations provided insight into the methodologies and the infrastructure to control and expedite merchandise flows in these busy ports.

During the workshop’s closing remarks, Daniel Baldwin, CBP Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Trade, indicated, “At CBP we need to understand the overall impact of our mission on the economic and commercial environment by finding alternatives on how to do our work, how to cut costs to traders, and how to take work away from the physical border.”

Baldwin also commented that the trade community is looking for transparency, predictability and certainty. Advance rulings/advance information fit in here by streamlining process as much as possible; allowing our entire countries safe from unhealthy products and, at the same time, make trade facilitation a reality.

The workshop is part of the technical assistance and support for capacity building of the WTO Negotiations on Trade Facilitation, which seeks to assist each country’s customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues, in order to be able to participate more effectively in all rounds of negotiations.

The Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation was established and negotiations started in 2004 with the aim of clarifying and improving relevant aspects of Articles V, VIII and X of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) of 1994.

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