Why is the Namibia Trade Forum crucial for the implementation of trade facilitation reforms and how does it contribute to those?

Oct 12 / Author name

Introduction

The Namibia Trade Forum (hereafter the NTF) is an agency of the Ministry of Industrialisation and Trade. It was established by a cabinet decision as an 'organization not for profit (NPO)' as articulated in its founding documents. Its mandate was set out to be the organisation that institutionalizes public-private dialogue on matters related to trade and investment (NTF articles of association). The NTF conducts this work by means of hosting various committees through which information is collated and shared regarding specific trade issues. The committees housed under the NTF and for which the NTF serves as a permanent secretariat are; agriculture, fisheries, trade in services, manufacturing and crucially that of trade facilitation. The reason the NTF was set up is to ensure that the private sector has a voice when it comes to inputting into trade negotiations. And so, practically the NTF was established to consult the private sector regarding various trade policies and ensure that such input is reflected during negotiations. When concluded, the NTF equally has a crucial role of unpacking and explaining what these trade agreements mean for the private sector. It goes without saying that this is a critical function because the success of any trade policy lies in how knowledgeable and aware the private sector is but crucially how they can be supported to help ensure implementation. The mandate of the NTF has been solidified by the fact that it has become the trusted go-to institution by the private sector and its role accepted as crucial to help create an enabling environment for trade. It therefore goes to say that an organization so well placed within the public and private sector would indeed play a critical role and aid in bringing all necessary stakeholders together for purposes of coordination and collaboration, especially so to encourage the implementation of trade facilitation reforms.

Why is the NTF crucial to the successful implementation of trade facilitation reforms

Trade facilitation reforms are generally those initiatives directed at faster and more efficient trade while keeping costs down in order to attract investors and help the private sector compete (The World Bank Blogs; www.worldbank.org). Examples of such reforms may include, but not limited to, reducing the number of official documents, signatures ad stamps required for export, standardizing and simplifying required documentation, electronic date submissions etc. (www.researchgate.net). It is also worth noting that it is the National Trade Facilitation committee (hereafter NTFC) that is bestowed the objective of bringing various key industry players to discuss and coordinate on the implementation of such trade reform measures. By definition, NTFC is a multi-agency permanent platform where relevant stakeholders from the private and public sectors discuss and coordinate trade facilitation measures at national level (UNCTAD Empowerment Programme for National Trade Facilitation Committees). It is at this platform that different trade facilitation issues are discussed and solutions tabled for action by the relevant institutions. It goes without saying that the NTFC plays the central role for the successful implementation of trade facilitation reforms. Therefore it remains pertinent that such a body is properly supported by a well-functioning permanent secretariat. A permanent secretariat is actually highlighted as one of the success factors of a NTFC. The role it plays, i.e. coordinating meetings, recording minutes, drafting and sending out agendas etc. is a key support function for the success of a NTFC and by extension that of the implementation of trade facilitation reforms. In Namibia, it is the NTF that serves as the permanent secretariat for the NTFC. The NTF carries out its permanent secretarial duties but crucially also works hand-in-hand with the coordinating agency being the Ministry of Industrialisation and Trade. This symbiotic relationship makes for easier coordination and implementation of the various trade facilitation reforms.
How does the NTF contribute to the successful implementation of trade facilitation reforms 

Taking into account the critical role that the NTFC plays in terms of trade facilitation reform implementation with the establishment of a permanent secretariat directly linked to such success; it becomes useful to try and understand how the role of a permanent secretariat is crucial for implementation.

1. Coordination and Liaison – the permanent secretariat (in this case the NTF) ensures that meetings take place with the requisite people in attendance and that such meetings are properly recorded and minuted for ease of reference during implementation.

2. Public-Private Approach to trade reform implementation – with trade facilitation being a wide area involving various players, it is undisputed that a public-private approach towards implementation makes the most practical sense. With the NTF being the mandated organisation that establishes public-private dialogue, the NTFC can leverage off the relationships that the NTF has built to ensure proper representation, commitment and implementation at national level.

3. Unpacking the TFA – As alluded to earlier, the success of any trade policy tool largely lies in how well aware and knowledgeable the private sector is about that policy – its advantages for them as business, threats and opportunities etc. The NTF plays the critical and central role in this regard as it holds various information sharing sessions which unpack various trade agreements for the private sector, the TFA included. This then paves the way for the NTFC to continue and build on platforms built by the NTF in the execution of its mandate.
Therefore, it remains that the NTF as permanent secretariat to the NTFC plays a critical function which aids in the implementation of trade facilitation reforms.