Unlocking Trade in LDCs: Making sure African and Asian economies benefit from a new WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation

Trade has long been seen as critical to economic growth and prosperity. A new WTO trade facilitation agreement that unlocks the potential, and provides practical support, for LDCs to trade their way out of poverty must be a development priority.

We were therefore delighted that, in the run-up to the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali from 3-6 December 2013, the Crown Agents Foundation and the Saana Institute were able to partner in bringing together a distinguished group of key stakeholders to focus specifically on how LDCs can be most effectively supported to ensure they capture the gains from a possible new WTO trade facilitation agreement.

A select group of 40 trade facilitation and development experts from developing countries, the private sector, academia and donor agencies came together in London on the 21st of November 2013 to review the state of play with the trade facilitation agenda in Least Developed Countries in Africa and Asia in the context of a new WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation which maybe launched at the Bali Ministerial Conference from 3-6 December 2013.


Panellists and participants explored how LDCs and development partners could build on the regional integration and trade facilitation initiatives already underway in Africa and Asia to deliver solutions for implementing a new WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement that would maximise the pay-offs for LDCs in terms of cutting the costs of doing business and trading across borders.

In keeping with the ethos of the Saana Institute and the Crown Agents Foundation, the seminar discussions were conducted in a constructive, though informal manner, as participants took the opportunity to share national and regional trade facilitation experiences, implementation concerns, good practices and responded to the viewpoints that were presented.

Download the Outcomes Report (PDF, 1.7 mb)

The specific objectives of the seminar were:

  • To contribute to and influence discussions around the nature and implementation of a possible WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation in African and Asian LDCs.
  • To discuss and share ideas on how African and Asian LDCs can best be supported to ensure they capture the gains of an Agreement on Trade Facilitation.
  • To consider the roles of development partners in responding to LDCs’ trade facilitation needs with a particular focus on the needs of private sector importers and exporters.

The final seminar agenda, list of participants and background paper are included as annexes to the Outcomes Report document available above.

For an independent view of the seminar, please see this article on the Guardian website.

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Dr. Mohammad Razzaque, Commonwealth Secretariat (Left);

Panel 2: Professor Jim Rollo, University of Sussex; Richard Gilbert, Business Action for Africa; Dr. Naomi Chakwin, ADB; Eamon Cassidy, DFID-BIS (Right)

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Matthew Wilson, ITC (Left);

Dr. Sola Afolabi, Borderless Alliance; Dr. Joy Kategekwa, WTO Secretariat (Right)

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Frank Matsaert, TradeMark East Africa (Left);

Naomi Chakwin, Asian Development Bank; Frank Matsaert, TradeMark East Africa (Right)