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SBF urges Asean members of WTO to join the Trade Facilitation Agreement

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Ho Meng Kit, chief executive of SBF, noted that the latest SBF National Business Survey 2016/2017 identified unclear rules and regulations as the top challenge that businesses face when they expand overseas.

THE Singapore Business Federation (SBF) has urged all World Trade Organisation (WTO) members, especially the Asean members, to come on board the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which came into force on Wednesday.

In a release on Thursday, SBF said that the TFA would help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) be more competitive and help them integrate into regional and global value chains.

Ho Meng Kit, chief executive of SBF, noted that the latest SBF National Business Survey 2016/2017 identified unclear rules and regulations as the top challenge that businesses face when they expand overseas.

He said that the TFA will bring about more transparent, predictable and efficient customs procedures and lower compliance costs, lowering barriers for Singapore companies to venture into foreign markets.

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"For instance, the TFA requires WTO members to publish information on their respective import and export procedures and documentary requirements, which must be easily available online. This would considerably reduce the time, effort and resources for companies to obtain this information prior to exportation and importation," he said.

Mr Ho added that success of the TFA lies in the implementation: "Beyond the 112 members that have ratified it, representing about 65 per cent of Singapore's total trade in 2015, we hope that all WTO members, particularly our Asean partners, will come on board. We see the WTO TFA as complementary to the Asean Trade Facilitation Work Programme, so it will contribute towards realising the Asean Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2025."

The TFA is the first multilateral trade agreement to enter into force in over two decades, with more than two-thirds of WTO's 164 members having ratified the agreement. With the TFA coming into force, it is now an official part of the multilateral trading system covering more than 96 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP).

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had said that the TFA could bring down worldwide trade costs by between 12.5 per cent and 17.5 per cent, with low and lower middle income countries having the biggest reductions in trade costs. It also said that the TFA could provide a boost to global trade flows of over US$1 trillion, and add 0.34 per cent to 0.54 per cent a year to world GDP growth, equivalent to US$350 billion to US$550 billion.

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