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Permanent Secretary Jasemin Weekes

Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 26, 2019 (SKNIS): The Ministry of International Trade, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Affairs, in conjunction with the United Nations Conference on Trade Development (UNCTAD), is conducting a series of national workshops from March 25 – 29 at the Ocean Terrace Inn (OTI), focused on empowering the National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC) in St. Kitts and Nevis to adequately fulfil its role in the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) implementation.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of International Trade, Mrs. Jasemin Weekes, stated that the ministry is pleased to be one of the beneficiaries of UNCTAD’s Empowerment Programme for National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs), adding that the workshops are both critical and timely. Mrs. Weekes noted that the main purpose of this workshop is to build the capacity of the local NTFC and provide international standards and recommendations for same.

She added that the workshops’ objective is to assess the committee’s ability to implement in a coordinated manner trade facilitation reforms, including the provisions of the Trade Facilitation Agreement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). 

“The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement is important for the global trade community and has now been entered into force since 22ndFebruary 2017 (following ratification by two-thirds of the WTO membership),” she said. “It is aimed at assisting WTO Members like St. Kitts and Nevis in ensuring that rules of trade, though not very perfect, remain important to prevent the ‘law of the jungle’ from prevailing in international trade relations.”

Mrs. Weekes noted that there long waiting times at borders, inappropriate fees, cumbersome formalities, and inadequate or unclear rules and regulations, can all become serious obstacles to trade, and therefore can adversely affect investment, employment and trade-led development.

“Some of you here today would have some time in the past become exhausted with bureaucratic delays and sometimes ‘red-tape’ which pose a burden for moving goods across borders for your respective businesses,” she said. “It is for this and other related reasons that we welcome the national initiative to introduce a single window platform to integrate trade processes and procedures in a more transparent, predictable and clear way. We see the need for trade facilitation to be simpler, more modernized and harmonized for export and import processes.” 

The permanent secretary stated that the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis is fully cognizant of the potential benefits of the TFA once it is fully implemented including significantly reducing trade costs while boosting global trade.

“As a fast-growing developing economy we see the need to improve the business environment by undertaking reforms that will lead to greater efficiency and cost savings for both companies and the consumer at both national and regional levels,” she said.

Permanent Secretary Jasemin Weekes added that the Ministry of International Trade considers the empowerment programme to be “a useful tool to strengthen the functioning of our NTFC and in simplifying foreign trade procedures.”

“What is commendable and of particular interest to us is the fact that this program is not executed with a ‘one size fits all approach’, but rather it responds to our individual needs – that for us is an important feature of the programme we wish to underscore.  The Ministry looks forward to continuing with this rich partnership between UNCTAD and St. Kitts and Nevis, “she said.

Participants of the five-day workshop include the St. Kitts and Nevis Chambers of Industry and Commerce, and other private sector companies including Freight and Shipping companies, Courier services providers, St. Christopher Air and Sea Ports Authority (SCASPA), and Nevis Air and Sea Ports Authority (NASPA), Customs and Excise Department, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Agriculture, St. Kitts and Nevis Bureau of Standards, Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, amongst others. 

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