INetQI Chair, Merih Malmqvist Nilsson, took part in Aid for Trade 2019 session: “Quality infrastructure for trade: Better quality, better trade”, organised by The World Bank Group and the WTO, to promote how an effective Quality Infrastructure (QI) is essential to access market opportunities through international trade. The session advanced the dialogue between donors, beneficiaries, and other interested stakeholders on how enhanced collaboration could help overcome QI gaps, improve implementation of the TBT Agreement, and enhance the ability of countries to trade.
The session was moderated by Aik Hoe Lim, Director, Trade and Environment Division, WTO, and involved panellists representing the Deputy Director General of the WTO, senior trade officials, trade advisors, government, the World Bank, and accreditation. A summary of the session is set out below:
Aik Hoe Lim, Director, Trade and Environment Division, WTO explained that a national Quality Infrastructure (QI) was essential for accessing global markets by building trust and confidence in exports, increasing incomes in developing countries, fostering productivity and competitiveness, and contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). QI includes the institutions and the legal and regulatory frameworks for standardization, accreditation, metrology, conformity assessment, market surveillance and technical regulations.
Alan Wm. Wolff, Deputy Director-General, WTO said lack of QI was a formidable obstacle to least developed and developing country efforts to diversify to new markets, but the concept of QI was poorly understood. Moreover, QI was a challenge that cannot be solved by one approach, instrument, or organization alone, so the question is how we can up our game through collaboration and coordination, giving QI a bigger profile in the trade policy agenda.
Catherine Kadennyeka Masinde, Practice Manager, Global Business Regulation Unit, Macroeconomics, Trade & Investment, World Bank Group explained that many developing countries face various constraints including organization, technical performance and recognition of bodies involved in their QI ecosystem. A large share of global exports is subject to technical regulations, and many least developed and developing countries are unable to meet these requirements due to gaps in their QI, which prevent integration into global markets and supply chains. Different countries face different challenges, while some have no QI in place; others have a multiplicity of institutions and need support to better coordinate nationally. High costs and lack of knowledge about its benefits prevent countries from investing in QI. Building up a body of knowledge and analytics on QI that countries can use to benchmark performance, is a priority.
Celestine O. Okanya, Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria National Accreditation Service highlighted gaps in Nigeria’s QI system as one of the main obstacles to improving the country’s manufacturing and agriculture export performance. These gaps were identified in a World Bank QI diagnostic study, which helped policymakers understand the impact of a well-functioning QI ecosystem on trade performance. As of 2014, Nigeria lacked a National Metrology Institute (NMI), an accreditation body, and indigenous certification/inspection bodies (except for regulators).
This situation has since improved, and there is now an accreditation body in place, the NMI is being developed, and there are emerging indigenous certification bodies. The possible collaboration being discussed between the World Bank Group and the WTO could make a difference by undertaking QI diagnostics in more developing countries, thereby helping find solutions to problems which require long term support.
Merih Malmqvist Nilsson, Chair, International Network on Quality Infrastructure (INetQI) said QI provides the tools needed so citizens can take things for granted in their day-to-day life – for instance, that the elevator won’t fall, or that consumers receive the quantities of fuel or apples for which they paid. However, QI is not always a priority for policymakers. The key challenge in QI is creating and maintaining trust, which allows international trade to take place. It is vital to take account of the perspectives of all stakeholders involved, and to increase the participation of developing countries in these discussions.
Mikael Anzén, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Sweden to the WTO emphasized that supporting QI improvements in developing countries is in line with efforts to reach the SDGs and promote economic growth, and it deserves more attention. Sweden supports a range of technical assistance initiatives including in the area of QI. From Sweden’s perspective, it is important to take a systematic approach to QI development.
Coordination amongst donors is also a priority, as demonstrated by the 20 June 2019 side event to the WTO TBT Committee organized by Sweden.
Paul Fekete, Senior International Trade Advisor, Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment, USAID said standards pose significant market access challenges for developing countries. In response, the United States created the Standards Alliance in 2012, a joint venture between USAID and ANSI, to increase understanding of TBT Agreement obligations and improve their implementation. The experience of the Standards Alliance demonstrated the importance of involving the private sector in projects, and the existence of multiple approaches and pathways to QI development. A new phase of the Standards Alliance is expected to be launched before the end of 2019.
Andrew McCoubrey, Head, Trade for Development, Department for International Development (DFID), United Kingdom underscored the essential role of QI in allowing exporters to access markets. The Commonwealth Standards Network, supported by DFID provides training and technical assistance to developing countries to help reduce technical barriers to trade and promote trade opportunities. There is a need to avoid fragmentation to fulfil opportunities to promote international trade in the complex and vital area of QI.
DDG Wolff said the World Bank and the WTO are exploring whether they can enhance existing collaboration, to complement the successful Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF). Such possible collaboration could help in various ways: (i) identifying bankable QI-related projects and delivering project seed funding; (ii) supporting developing countries to enhance their QI performance; (iii) providing a platform for enhanced policy coordination across the global QI ecosystem and; (iv) disseminating good practices. The objective is to enhance the trade and development prospects of producers and consumers globally by increasing confidence in the safety and quality of products. Improving collaboration on QI represents a great opportunity to show how the WTO and partners can deliver for trade and development.
Categories: IAF Liaisons