At the invitation of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), in cooperation with the Philippines Government, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya spoke at the ADB Beyond Tariffs Forum in Manila together with ADB President Takehiko Nakao and WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo on 21 May 2015.
Secretary General Mikuriya spoke about the WCO’s collaborative approach with the WTO in implementing the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA), including the WCO Implementation Guide on TFA, the Working Group on TFA and the Mercator Programme. He also spoke about the WCO support for regional integration, including enhancing connectivity at borders through the implementation of global standards, such as the Revised Kyoto Convention, which would also provide additional support for the multilateral trading system. The cooperation between the WCO and the ADB was also highlighted in a range of areas including infrastructure investment at borders, incorporating best practices on border procedures.
WTO Director General Azevêdo outlined the origins of the TFA, a major outcome of the Doha Development Round, which had the potential to deliver tangible benefits. He also stressed the importance of cooperation with the WCO in order to capitalize on the Organization’s technical expertise in implementing the Agreement. Mr. Azevêdo spoke about the impact of a possible shift towards a more balanced equilibrium in the traditional ‘two-to-one’ ratio between trade growth and economic growth, caused by structural changes in domestic consumption in emerging economies, amongst other things.
ADB President Nakao spoke about positive signals emanating from Asia, indicative of improvements in the Asian economy, and the need to support trade creation as a source of economic growth. Representatives of the Philippines business community expressed interest in agricultural, environmental, and compliance issues and referred to the negative aspects pertaining to competition which could produce winners and losers. In response, Secretary General Mikuriya outlined the inclusive approach of Customs towards Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs), including start-ups, particularly after potential entrepreneurs had acquired new skills as a result of changes in the economic structure. He also referred to the widespread policy in Customs of encouraging business compliance with the incentive of improved facilitative measures.
Over one hundred participants attended the Forum and were appreciative of the opportunity to hear about global trade policy negotiations, and the practical efforts made by Customs on the ground to make such negotiations a reality.
Photo (from left to right): ADB Vice President Stephen Groff, Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya, WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo, ADB President Takehiko Nakao, and representatives of the Philippines business community