SBEA Lauds WTO Progress in Cutting Customs Delays and Costs
Dec. 20, 2005
Hong Kong — The Small Business Exporters Association of the United States (SBEA) today commended the member nations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) for the progress they made at the WTO Hong Kong Ministerial Meeting in several areas affecting smaller enterprises, particularly “trade facilitation” — simplifying and harmonizing the world’s customs clearance procedures.
“SBEA recognizes that only incremental progress was made in Hong Kong in addressing some of the most challenging issues on the table, such as agricultural subsidies and access to foreign markets,” SBEA President Jim Morrison said in Hong Kong, where he was an adviser to the delegation from the United States. “Still, it’s important to note that the meeting achieved consensus to continue moving ahead in several areas that can potentially benefit smaller companies greatly, including liberalization of service exports and e-commerce as well as the protection of intellectual property.”
SBEA drew attention to one key breakthrough at Hong Kong — “trade facilitation” — making customs clearances more open and streamlined.
“Delays, red tape, and unexpected charges at border crossings are among the most common complaints of smaller companies that ship their products abroad,” Morrison noted. “The WTO has made great progress on this in the past two years. In Hong Kong, the WTO agreed to a new negotiating mandate to address these problems on a global basis. That’s great news for smaller companies that do business internationally.”
“The WTO is now committed to hammer out new trading rules to insure the transparency, efficiency, and impartiality of customs procedures,” Morrison said. “For smaller companies, these are crucial reforms. They go right to the heart of core business costs, and whether smaller export and import transactions can be made economically feasible. As such, they are a key to getting smaller companies into international trade in the first place.”
The WTO rules will expedite customs clearances by such measures as posting existing and proposed customs regulations on the Internet and by facilitating automated payment processes, pre-clearance options, and express shipments.
Acknowledging a widespread complaint by smaller companies, the new WTO work program will focus on prohibiting the collection of unpublished customs fees and charges.
The range of existing customs fees also would be narrowed, and all fees would be reviewed periodically.
To speed implementation, the WTO agreed in principle to assist less developed nations in setting up customs clearance procedures that meet the new criteria.
SBEA particularly lauds the United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Rob Portman, and the dedicated USTR negotiating team for the superb leadership they have shown in the Doha Development Round overall. USTR deserves special recognition for their sucess at Hong Kong in pushing forward these extremely promising negotiations on trade facilitation, as well as the progress in other areas of concern to smaller companies in international trade.
(Note: the “Trade Facilitation” objectives adopted by the WTO in Hong Kong can be found at Article 33 of the Final Ministerial Declaration, on page 6, WT/MIN(05)/W/3/Rev.2, with detail provided in Annex E, at pages E-1 through E-5.
The document may be downloaded at
SBEA is the oldest and largest non-profit organization of small and mid-sized exporting companies in the United States. It also is the international trade council for the National Small Business Association (NSBA).
For nearly 70 years, NSBA has been an advocate for the interests of small businesses throughout the country. The organization, which reaches more than 150,000 small businesses, is proud to be the first national small business advocacy organization in the United States.
The Small Business Exporters Association of the United States is located at 1156 15th Street NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20005. The phone number is (202) 659-9320.