As the map shows, carnet membership is sparse in less economically established regions.
Around half the nations on the globe are ATA carnet members, including most of the developed world. From a standing start in the 1960s, this is a fine achievement.
Even so, there is substantial room for expansion and shared rewards. Current members would have new destinations for easier trade, using a system they value, those joining will see fresh opportunity open up.
Barriers to trade arrangements are often quoted as a lack of human resources, infrastructure, economic stability, or rule of law. Equally, all of those can be improved by trading with more established nations.
A Gap To Bridge
Latin America has expanded regional trade agreements in recent decades. What began as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa has also grown.
There have been deals with individual countries, China is a fair example, along with the US related African Growth and Opportunity Act. This helps to remove barriers and encourages legal improvements locally.
These initiatives are positive but not in a transformational way. The countries in both regions are largely a source of raw materials and minerals, productively competing in the world market remains an aspiration.
With a population of 1 billion, Sub-Saharan Africa has exports of about £100 million. The UK, with 7% of the Sub-Saharan population, exports over £400 billion. The gap is immense and can not be bridged by separate, bilateral agreements.
Clear Steps Forward
Trying to drive emerging countries down the Western route of industrialisation can be a poor fit practically, culturally, or for the environment. Developed countries have caused sufficient damage, neither is there a need.
We are seeing alternatives, Silicon Valley companies are outsourcing coding tasks to Kenya, Peru is exporting renewable energy technology, Zambian companies are making exquisite jewellery from their own precious stones, for export.
There are challenges but skills and educational gaps are reducing. Stable government and legal frameworks also need to be in place to match, in a way the greatest challenge, although one which can be encouraged.
Influence, or expertise from outside can help and would need to be multi-faceted. We are not suggesting that ATA carnets will cure the world’s ills, simply that they are a useful tool which has helped stimulate trade in many places.
One of the Zambian jewellery companies mentioned above attends trade shows in the US with little hassle under their agreement. They don’t exhibit in Europe because of high costs an ATA carnet would set aside.
This won’t happen overnight, many places are not ready. Companies, or financial institutions within them are and could join the ICC (the world body governing ATA carnets) as direct members. A useful route for dialogue and knowledge transfer.
As we know from recent new carnet members, from Qatar to Kazakhstan, the process takes time. We simply believe that if everyone, from the ICC to individual traders gave clear encouragement at local level, that time would be shorter.