DFAT and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), together with South Africa’s Department of Trade and Investment (DTI), co-hosted an Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) conference on Modernising Trade in the Indian Ocean Rim in Durban on 17-18 June 2019.
The conference brought together nearly 200 representatives from government and the private sector – including gender and trade ministers, local and international commerce chambers, and women’s entrepreneur groups – to discuss the challenges and opportunities for trade and investment in the region.
It forms part of Australia’s ongoing efforts to reinvigorate trade facilitation among IORA member states, which remains a key feature of IORA’s Action Plan to 2021.
Although the Indian Ocean Rim holds over 30 per cent of the world’s population, it accounts for just over 11 per cent of global trade. Only three per cent of this occurs between IORA member states.
Conference participants agreed that after 20 years of dialogue, the time has come for meaningful action to progress trade facilitation in the region. Panel discussion throughout the conference reflected a renewed commitment by stakeholders to not only promote and stimulate intra-IORA trade but also with IORA’s dialogue partners, which include the United States, China, Germany, France and the UK.
Representatives from the Indian Ocean Rim Business Forum (IORBF) suggested establishing regular dialogue between governments and businesses on non-tariff barriers, as well as collaborating on policymaking through new or existing public-private mechanisms.
The Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation presented the full spectrum of its potential assistance and existing projects on offer to accelerate implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement within IORA. Participants also indicated interest in the development of a conceptual framework to reduce barriers to women’s participation in the economy.
The second day of the conference provided an opportunity for IORA’s Working Groups on Women’s Economic Empowerment, and Trade and Investment, to meet and discuss how they might integrate these suggested initiatives into their work plans.