Without a doubt, trade and transportation of goods and services form the lifeblood of any economy, large or small. Still today, trade in and through the Middle East remains at the heart of the global economy. For example, 30% of the world’s trade is transported through the Red Sea, however, a lot of it doesn’t stop there. Like a freight-train on the move, it just keeps going. Even if shipments do stop, border crossings are a major obstacle, holding shipments for customs clearing and taking valuable time. As a result, 38% of industry transport costs are spent on ‘unofficial levies’ in a bid to speed up clearing processes. Simultaneously, the region has seen large economic shifts in economy, technology and infrastructure. Consumers want to be able to order goods from global online retailers and get it delivered within the hour. Companies want access to machinery, knowledge and technology available overseas. Gone are the days of products being made for a single local market. Phones, cars and manufacturing components, to name a few, are now made for the global market. To meet the demands of modern lifestyles, there is pressure on the global logistics system to move goods and services faster than ever before. Increased regulations are an attempt to integrate and streamline cross-border trade to ensure safety and security across various levels.
With the increased global visibility and awareness of products and services, the requirement to reduce product and shipping costs has become ever present. As the region starts meeting the myriad of complex demands, the Middle East and particularly the GCC continue to see extensive changes in trade infrastructure. From reforms in public transport and regulation, to finding innovative ways to transport goods, the industry is rapidly changing and is impacting the inter-regional and international trade.
The importance of trade infrastructure to efficient supply chains
An additional side effect of our changing economies is the increased complexity of supply chains. They are more multi-layered than ever before, in order to produce high-quality products at the right price. Take, for example, computer or phone manufacturing. Much of the motivation for the size of the supply chain is price: it is much cheaper for a manufacturer to buy the parts rather than to make them. Quality is also a consideration. There are specialist manufacturers, for example chip or screen manufacturers, who supply even high-end brands. It’s just not possible to make something as complex as a car, a smartphone or a computer without an extensive supply chain, thanks to the basic components involved. Bringing all these separate parts together to create one usable product requires a stable and secure transport infrastructure.
Oman’s growing position as trade hub of the Middle East
The GCC countries recognsed the importance of to join the TIR system (a globally applicable international customs transit and guarantee system), with Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE already signatories, and Oman set to join soon. Oman has been asserting its position as a key player in the trade region for some time now. Oman’s strategic location as a trade hub and its dynamic investment strategy to become a logistics leader over the coming years, both regionally and globally, makes it an ideal venue for engaging transport and trade leaders from around the world at the International Road Transport Union (IRU) World Congress.
Trade brings economic stability
There’s also a more important reason why trade and infrastructure are so important. It is a key driver for peace and prosperity. More trade translates to more jobs across industries. In turn, higher local employment encourages the development of smaller and medium sized businesses, which are the backbone of every growing economy. Those businesses then need more access to trade infrastructure, to buy their supplies and sell their goods.
The strategic importance of collaboration in overcoming obstacles.
As a collaborative umbrella organization, ASYAD is the most comprehensive end-to-end logistics provider in the Middle East, covering ports, free zones and multimodal transportation. They are a prime example of how an open dialogue can help overcome some of the key trade obstacles in the region. They recently started working on a pre-clearance process that allows traders to clear their goods before arrival in Oman. In 2018, traders were able to pre-clear 14 per cent of the imported shipments and the industry is aiming to increase that rate. ASYAD works with an open-door policy and regularly encouraging the business community to discuss possible improvements, raise issues and propose solutions to improve the performance of the sector.
To continue the dialogue, from November 6th - November 8th 2018, Oman will be hosting the world’s heavy-weights in transport at the IRU World Congress 2018 to debate and solve transport and trade challenges.
The congress will offer leading business and government figures a platform to listen and share expertise on key and emerging topic areas such digitalization, vehicle automation, new fuel technology and energy, new market structures, environmental and congestion issues, safety and globalization and trade protectionism. The congress will address the opportunities and the challenges, helping equip the industry, in the Middle East and beyond, as the Fourth Industrial Revolution takes hold.
The congress is being organized by the IRU, the world’s only transport trade association, and hosted by ASYAD, Oman’s leading provider of integrated logistics services and the Omani Ministry of Transport and Communications.
Registration for attendance is currently open and more information can be found at https://www.iruworldcongress.com/