The World Bank also helps countries to establish clear customs rules that more effectively protect traders from inconsistent treatment or solicitations for bribes. Further, the World Bank is working to address costly border inefficiencies. For example, the World Bank is helping to simplify and modernize trade procedures through Cameroon’s Douala port, and the bank has helped the government of Laos to establish an online portal that provides traders with access to all relevant laws, procedures, schedules and forms from border-management agencies.
Moreover, since 2010, the International Finance Corporation, the bank’s private-sector lending arm, has been promoting the integration of small and medium-size enterprises into global supply chains by increasing their access to capital. The US$500 million Global Trade Supplier Finance program, a joint investment and advisory initiative, is currently providing short-term finance to thousands of emerging-market small and medium-size enterprises.
In order to maximize the impact of such initiatives, world leaders should cooperate to build and maintain an open trading system. The WTO’s Bali conference provided an important opportunity to develop a new trade-facilitation agreement that expedites the movement, release and clearance of goods at border stations, clarifies and improves trade-related rules, enhances technical assistance and encourages cooperation among border-control agencies.
However, the agreement that was reached in Bali cannot succeed unless wealthy countries and donors agree to support developing countries’ efforts to enact related policies and reforms. Given this, it is crucial that developed-country policymakers recognize that a more efficient, better integrated and more inclusive global trade regime will benefit all countries.
With genuine commitment from the international community and the appropriate domestic policies in place, trade can be a powerful force for poverty reduction.
Mahmoud Mohieldin is the World Bank president’s special envoy.
Copyright: Project Syndicate/Global Economic Symposium