18 de Enero de 2019
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Colección: Trends for a common future
Autor: Sidney Weintraub
Título: Technical Cooperation Needs for Hemispheric trade Negotiations

B. Negotiating Groups

The following commentary will deal with the needs and possibilities for TC in each of the negotiating groups.

1. Market Access

If any negotiating group can be singled out for its overall importance for the FTAA negotiations, it is this one. Improving access to markets of trading partners has long been the traditional objective of trade negotiations and, despite reduction of tariffs over the years and introduction of many new elements in the trade picture, reducing border barriers continues to be highly significant.

The elements covered in the negotiating group on market access (NGMA) include the following: tariffs and non-tariff measures; customs procedures; rules of origin; and standards and technical barriers to trade. These are the most important areas for which many hemispheric countries must upgrade their computer equipment, master information management, establish data bases, and learn how to evaluate the effects of the trade negotiations on their overall economic development and on trade and investment in those areas most important for their economies.

In the public report after its second meeting, the NGMA made reference to updating the hemispheric data base; the method and timetables for tariff elimination and the approach to tariff elimination; identification of other measures that affect applied tariffs, such as customs surcharges and other fees; the identification and analysis of special regimes; notifications of customs procedures applied under preferential subregional agreements; safeguard regimes under these preferential, subregional agreements; identification of nontariff measures subject to negotiation; elements of the rules of origin; and identification and elimination of unnecessary technical barriers to trade. One of the ways to deal with standards and technical regulations is to devise mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) in the Western Hemisphere.1

The central objective of a free-trade negotiation is to identify and eliminate barriers to trade, particularly those implemented at the border (like tariffs and similar measures) and to specify when products are eligible for preferential, free-trade treatment (rules of origin). It is in precisely these areas, plus the use of allegedly technical standards to keep out competitive foreign goods, that most trade negotiation concentrates. These are precisely the issues with which the NGMA must deal. These themes, plus the other agenda items listed above, can be highly technical, and this is why a program of TC can be so valuable.

TC on market access issues is available from many international institutions The IDB, through the Instituto para la Integración de América Latina y el Caribe (INTAL), is one of the hemispheric institutions that offers workshops on market access issues. INTAL also organizes courses in Tegucigalpa on this and related themes for Central American countries, including Belize and Panama, sponsored by the IDB and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration.

As a rule, however, despite the centrality of the market-access themes, the courses, seminars, working groups, and the like, are abbreviated and can only scratch the surface of the complex issues involved. Surely, short courses are better than no courses. In addition, there was considerable learning on market-access themes when the working groups were in existence, and there will be more as the negotiating groups proceed with their work. The NGMA will have to rely heavily on the technical analyses they have requested from the three agencies of the Tripartite Committee. For individual countries with limited personnel dedicated to the FTAA negotiations, it may be necessary to hire outside consultants experienced in the technicalities of rules of origin, setting of standards, mutual recognition agreements, and the like. Perhaps the most important element of TC for the work of this negotiating group is the provision of equipment and then the training to set up information systems and to enable the country’s officials to analyze the impact of the many proposals that will be forthcoming. The benefits of such assistance will not be confined to the NGMA, but this is a good place to start.