OSCE, World Customs Organization promote cross-border trade in Central Asia

ASTANA (TCA) — Kazakhstan’s capital Astana on September 27-29 is hosting an OSCE-supported regional discussion on trade facilitation through enhancing regional transit for public and private sector representatives from Central Asia and the South Caucasus as well as specialized trade and transport organizations, the OSCE Programme Office in Astana said.

Some 40 customs and trade officials from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are discussing available tools at the disposal of governments to improve the transit transport potential of the region. Discussions are focusing on the implementation of the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement as well as on the introduction of customs information sharing systems, the implementation of the TIR (International Road Transports) Convention and its guarantee system, the development of customs-to-business partnerships and tools aimed at improving inter-agency cooperation both domestically and internationally.

“The Central Asia region seeks access to external markets and trade and transit facilitation are essential in achieving this,” said György Szabó, Head of the OSCE Programme Office in Astana. “The Office stands ready to continue providing support to the Government of Kazakhstan to reduce existing trade barriers that impede its regional economic integration.”

Roel Janssens, Economic Adviser at the OCEEA said that according to global estimates only 5% of the costs of international trade consist of actual tariffs, the bulk of transaction costs are due to procedures and services, different product standards, the complexity of business regulatory environments and other factors.  “In view of the potential to attract increased levels of transit volumes along Euro-Asian inland continental routes, countries in the region should focus their efforts on trying to reduce these non-tariff barriers.  This is only possible in the presence of closer economic cooperation and mutual political trust.”

Toshihiki Osawa, Technical Officer at World Customs Organization said: “The ratification and implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement is high on the agenda of customs administrations around the world. To support its member administrations in establishing more efficient transit systems, the WCO has recently issued a ‘Transit Handbook’ and is in the process of developing a set of targeted guidelines.”

The three-day workshop was organized by the Office of the Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA) and the OSCE Programme Office in Astana in close partnership with the State Revenues Committee of the Finance Ministry of Kazakhstan and the World Customs Organization (WCO).

Sergey Kwan