New site making life easier for traders
Just a quick errand during lunch to get your administrative tasks done. Renewing your driver´s license, getting the operational license for your new business or obtaining an export certificate for your products – shouldn´t be too difficult, right?
After you start with the wrong institution, twice (“No, you have to go to the central office first!”); visit five different websites to search for the right person to contact; err from office door to office door; go back home to pick up three important documents that you didn´t know were needed; wait at closed counters; receive contradicting instructions on what to do next (“Have you been to the cashier yet? That is the first thing you have to do!”); and miss the deadline and are sent back to the beginning several days later, you are close to giving up in frustration.
Across countries and across cultures, everyone can relate to this kind of experience. Getting things done is not so easy, as important information is spread out over different institutions, offices and persons.
This is where Samoa´s Trade Information Portal comes into play, offering practical guidance to make the life of importers, exporters, entrepreneurs and foreign investors easier.
A freely accessible website, the portal provides an easy to follow step-by-step approach to trade procedures and answers relevant questions. Where do I need to go and what institutions are in charge Who is the contact person? What are the costs? How much time does it take? What are the opening hours? What documents do I need to bring?
You can look up trade-related legislation and regulations that are relevant to import vehicles to Samoa or export local taro. In fact, the portal provides detailed and visual information with regards to a wide range of business and investment procedures, and information for the import and export of all major goods.
There are sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS), technical barriers to trade, regulations regarding licensing and quantitative restriction like quotas and prohibitions all in one place, accessible from all over the world, just one click of your mouse away. In addition, women entrepreneurs and women business associations can find specific analyses on trade and gender issues as well as information on non-tariff measures and procedures to export specific goods to Australia and New Zealand, to ensure that trade reduces instead of exacerbates gender inequalities.
The portal is designed to facilitate the coordination between government institutions, and build a base to simplify difficult administrative procedures. It is helping to reduce bureaucratic hurdles and complexity and to create economic opportunities, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises and business associations like the Samoa Association of Manufacturers and Exporters.
If you have a business idea and want to access regional and global markets with your products, you should not be stopped because the procedures are too opaque or unclear. In the end, a knowledge platform with reliable, up-to-date information saves time, money and the frustration described at the beginning – no matter if you work for a public institution and reduce the time you normally spend to explain to your clients repeatedly the procedure and all the requirements, if you´re an investor and spend hours clicking through different websites in an attempt to find relevant information, or if you're a small business owner and spend a lot of your time finding relevant contacts, requirements and the correct order of steps.
The Samoa Trade Information Portal was set up by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour of Samoa with the support of Australia, New Zealand and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development under the Trade and Transparency Pillar of the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus.
PACER Plus is a regional free trade agreement covering goods, services and investment that aims at facilitating trade and strengthening regional integration in the Pacific. It builds on existing trade agreements: the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement in 1980 and the original PACER Agreement in 2001 with eleven countries as signatories: Australia, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. As seven out of eight required countries have already ratified the agreement (as of September 2020), an entry into force of PACER Plus is in close reach and foreseen in the coming months.
Similar to the Samoa Trade Information Portal that was officially launched in June 2020, further information portals have been set up in other Pacific countries to offer clearer and more transparent information on how to open a business in the Solomon Islands, how to export fish from Kiribati or how to get your business visa and import meat to Vanuatu.
US pastor Ralph W. Sockman once wrote, “The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder”.
In times where multilateralism is challenged on a global scale, it becomes more and more important to communicate openly, to share experiences and to work together to increase transparency and trust between trading partners. A freely accessible platform like the Samoa Trade Information Portal is an important step to build and grow this island of knowledge and as result wander together on the wonderous shorelines of economic growth and trade development.
The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNCTAD.