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Great Trade Data in a Few Clicks: How Cool is the WTO’s Website

Ruth Blog- How cool it WTO WebsiteToronto, Ont August 7, 2015     In last Friday’s eBulletin we ran an article WTO Updates Its Exports/Imports Statistics Database with Revised Data for 2014.  It being a Friday morning and having arrived at the office early and dealt with emails, I read the whole eBulletin, including this article with the boring title.  What a stunner.

The WTO’s Statistics Database is so well laid out, user-friendly and fast that I was able to obtain comparative trade data on various commodities in moments.  Within seconds I had Canadian and US imports and exports of iron and steel for 2013 by current USD value.  Not that I am the least bit interested in these specific data, but I am interested in general trade trends, how and where manufactured goods are moving around the world and how certain countries or regions are participating in international trade.

International freight forwarders, known for agility in the market-place, should also be interested in general trade data.  Which emerging countries are developing capacity in certain commodities?  Where will Canadian traders be selling or sourcing goods over the next decade?  What will be the next important trade lanes?   How easy will it be to trade with certain regions?

Building trade capacity is a core area of activity at the WTO  and is fundamental to the promotion of trade facilitation.  Again, the WTO’s website was excellent.  I searched trade facilitation and immediately received the following definition Removing obstacles to the movement of goods across borders (e.g. simplification of customs procedures).”  Ah, a subject near and dear to my heart.  Sure, freight forwarders have large multi-national organizations as customers.  Thousands of small and medium sized traders, however, are also customers of freight forwarders.  It is these traders around the world for whom we must have simplified customs procedures, import and export regulations that are transparent and clearly communicated so that trade compliance does not become an uncompetitive burden.

On a final note, I explored DFATD’s website.  The Canadian Government’s Global Markets Action Plan talks to priority markets and provides a Toolkit  for exporters.  While the website is pretty good, the ‘value of trade’ seems to equate only to the ‘value of exports’.  It is time that the Canadian government recognizes that import trade is as vital to the well-being of Canadians as export trade and invests in trade facilitation that supports the movement of goods into, out of and through Canada.

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