Recently, I attended the ASAPRA Annual Conference, which is the association of international trade Forwarders and Brokers of South and Central America. It was here that I had the good fortune to hear a representative from the World Customs Organization (WCO) address the conference attendees. During his presentation he spoke not only of the work of the WCO but also of the work being done by the World Trade Organization (WTO). While listening to the presentation, I realized how much the decisions made at these global organizations affect the trade as well as the livelihood of the trade community, including service providers. We should make sure we stay informed on the work being done in the global trade arena because eventually it comes back to affect how we accomplish our jobs within our own countries.
In my mind, I was always trying to distinguish the difference between the WCO and the WTO when it came to the effects it would have on my business as a service provider. In brief, the difference between the WCO and the WTO is the following:
The WCO is comprised of Customs Authorities within countries around the world (179 Members, three-quarters of which are developing countries and are responsible for managing more than 98% of world trade).They deal mostly with procedures to streamline the process of customs clearance in the global market while improving security and improving transparency and predictability in the customs clearance process.
World Customs Organization HQ
The WTO has 160 members as of June 2014 and is an organization where countries negotiate trade agreements, settle trade disputes, and operates a system of trade rules. In a nut shell, the WTO is a place where member governments try to sort out trade problems they may have with each other, creating rules which are transparent and predictable for global trade.
World Trade Organization
From this group come some WTO agreements we have all heard of regarding international trade such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) agreement. These agreements are essentially contracts binding governments to keep their trade policies within agreed limits. The goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business, while allowing governments to meet social and environmental objectives. This process is in place to help trade flow as freely as possible, thus improving the economic growth of the global economy.
One of the latest agreements being discussed at the WTO is the Bali Package, which was adopted on December 7th, 2013. While you may initially think that this package is not important to our daily jobs and work, when you read through the agreement, which is being deliberated and adopted by the member countries, you will see statements addressing the importance of services providers such as brokers and forwarders in the process of international trade. We should never take for granted the work being done by the WTO as well as the WCO because the recommendations being made by these global organizations will eventually be adopted by our own governments. In turn, directly influencing our daily work.
Never forget the pivotal role we play in the movement of International goods as well as the importance of being well informed on what is being agreed to, decided, or changed within our industry. We can only be effective if we stay informed and are part of the process. Be proud of what you do for the global economy.