It is my pleasure to be here this morning at the launch of Botswana’s National Enquiry Point. On behalf of the United States Embassy in Botswana and USAID’s Southern Africa Trade Hub, I would like to thank our partner, the Botswana Bureau of Standards, for working closely with us on this initiative that will increase trade efficiency and enhance economic growth in Botswana.
Today’s launch represents an important step in the Trade Hub’s technical assistance and capacity building program under USAID’s technical assistance on standards program. So far, this program has benefited six countries in the SADC region, and we are delighted that Botswana is the seventh. Through the Southern Africa Trade Hub, USAID works to improve the effectiveness of World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade – or TBT – Enquiry Points, enhance the standards development process, strengthen the legal and regulatory framework for standards, and create an effective process for legislating standards.
Realizing the increasing importance of standards in facilitating trade, the Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS) requested USAID’s Southern Africa Trade Hub collaboration in creating a technical assistance and capacity building program. An important part of this program is launching a National Enquiry Point – or NEP – for Botswana.
Not everyone realizes how important a National Enquiry Point is for a country and the trading life of its citizens. It is of course a requirement of the WTO’s TBT Agreement. A National Enquiry Point is also crucial to reducing the time and cost of trade, since it offers a single contact point for information requests.
In addition to responding to all questions about regulations, standards, and conformity assessment procedures, a good enquiry point maintains a reference collection of standards, specifications, test methods, codes, and recommended practices. Without such an entity, gathering needed information is cumbersome and even impossible—hindering trade, private sector involvement and economic growth.
Removing trade barriers is an important part of the Trade Hub’s work in the SADC region. When resources like the NEP help eliminate obstacles in trade flows, they ease the movement of commodities, which keeps costs reasonable for consumers and improves food security for Botswana’s population.
To assist Botswana in establishing this important resource, USAID has been working for over a year with BOBS on various steps to establish and launch the NEP. In April of this year, USAID sponsored three designated NEP officials from BOBS for a one week benchmarking visit to Nairobi to understand the functions of an enquiry point at the Kenya Bureau of Standards. USAID also helped with infrastructure by purchasing essential IT equipment and office furniture. In addition, USAID and BOBS conducted training workshops on Good Standardization Practice and Referencing Standards in Technical Regulations in June. They also hosted a workshop last month on the topic of establishing a WTO TBT National Consultative Committee for Botswana. The information shared in that workshop will help Botswana improve the effectiveness of its NEP and Notification Authorities in line with the WTO’s Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement.
Within the last year, the Southern Africa Trade Hub opened or re-launched NEPs in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zambia. Today’s celebration in Botswana marks the end of this stage of coordinated support by the US government to create a network of top-quality, effective NEPs that can respond to trade requests throughout the region, ensuring replies are swift and investment encouraged.
Given the importance of efficient trade to economic growth in Botswana, I am glad to be here today for the launch of the country’s National Enquiry Point. I would like to thank all of the individuals and organizations whose dedicated efforts made this launch possible. We are pleased Botswana is fulfilling its obligations as a WTO member while utilizing twenty-first century tools to streamline trade, improve food security, and encourage investment in the region.
Thank you very much.