Lebanese Minister of Economy and Trade Sami Haddad will open the UNESCWA Regional Workshop on Trade Facilitation for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) at 10:00am on 6 November 2006 at the UN House, Beirut. Participants in the meeting, which will continue until 7 November, include representatives of small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in the region. This activity focuses on trade facilitation for the private sector and is part of the work programme of UNESCWA. A regional workshop was held in the same framework last June for trade negotiators on trade facilitation.
Trade facilitation has become one of the main topics of discussion on the agenda of the multilateral trading system, or what is known as the Doha round negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The talks that were held focused on the simplification of trade procedures and documentation and information flows so as to make trade more efficient. The aim was to reach a new agreement on trade facilitation in the WTO. Trade facilitation incorporates the actions of stake players involved in the supply chain and it encompasses customs administration, freight handling companies, transport services, information services, financial services, health measures and others. It also incorporates legislative, procedural, and organizational aspects.
Trade facilitation also contributes to realizing trade efficiency exemplified in reductions in costs and time for traders, increasing transparency and predictability, enhancing customer value, revenue collection by the governments, and security. Engaging in measures to facilitate trade in customs, maritime, land and air transport, legislation, and infrastructure as well, were found to reflect positively on economic performance, income, growth, goods exchange and foreign direct Investments. It also reflects positively on the overall economic performance of these countries and specifically, the performance of SMEs, as small businesses are the most affected by barriers to trade. Owners of SMEs are often discouraged to trade internationally due to the complications of procedures, lack in transparency of legislations and procedures, high costs and fees, and unawareness and unpredictability of changes in legislations and procedures.
Pursuant to the fact that the private sector in general and the SMEs in the Arab countries in particular are the most to be affected by trade facilitation, and that they tend to be the most aware of the main impediments to international trade in their respective countries, especially non tariff barriers, UNESCWA is organizing the workshop to increase awareness of the developments that are taking place in this domain and their respective impact on the performance of SMEs. The Workshop also aims to generate discussion of the needs, priorities and roles of SMEs as regards issues pertinent to trade facilitation and streamlining means and methods to facilitate trade.