WTO: 2014 NEWS ITEMS

TRADE FACILITATION

Azevêdo launches new WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility to deliver support to LDCs and developing countries
International organizations pledge their support for implementing Trade Facilitation Agreement

A new initiative unveiled at the WTO on 22 July 2014 will help developing countries and least-developed countries reap the benefits of the WTO’s new Trade Facilitation Agreement, which was agreed at the Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013.

> Statement by DG Azevêdo

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> Joint statement by international organizations

> Statement by Coordinator of LDC Group

> Statement by Coordinator of ACP Group

> Statement by Coordinator of African Group

The Trade Facilitation Agreement broke new ground for developing and least-developed countries in the way it will be implemented. For the first time in WTO history, the requirement to implement the Agreement was directly linked to the capacity of the country to do so. In addition, the Agreement stated that assistance and support should be provided to help them achieve that capacity.

The aim of this new initiative, entitled the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF), is to help ensure that this assistance is provided to all those that require it.

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo joined the coordinators of the African, LDC and African, Caribbean and Pacific Groups to announce the creation of the TFAF at the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva.

Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said:

“I am delighted to launch the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility. With this new Facility, developing and least-developed countries can be sure that they will receive the support they need to make the reforms enshrined in the Trade Facilitation Agreement and share in the substantial economic gains that it will deliver. I am encouraged by the way this initiative has been received, including by donors, some of whom have already indicated their support or will soon be in a position to do so.

“This is an important day at the WTO. With this initiative we are sending the message again that development is at the heart of our work. It is important now that Members implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement so that developing countries can receive this technical assistance and so that we can move ahead with the other elements of the Bali package and negotiations on the Doha Development Agenda.”

The new Facility will complement existing efforts by regional and multilateral agencies, bilateral donors, and other stakeholders to provide Trade Facilitation-related technical assistance and capacity-building support. It will act as a focal point for implementation efforts. It will become operational when the protocol to insert the  Trade Facilitation Agreement into the existing regulatory framework is adopted by WTO Members. The functions of the Facility will include:

  • supporting LDCs and developing countries to assess their specific needs and identify possible development partners to help them meet those needs
  • ensuring the best possible conditions for the flow of information between donors and recipients through the creation of an information sharing platform for demand and supply of Trade Facilitation-related technical assistance
  • disseminating best practice in implementation of Trade Facilitation measures
  • providing support to find sources of implementation assistance, including formally requesting the Director-General to act as a facilitator in securing funds for specific project implementation
  • providing grants for the preparation of projects in circumstances where a Member has identified a potential donor but has been unable to develop a project for that donor’s consideration, and is unable to find funding from other sources to support the preparation of a project proposal
  • providing project implementation grants related to the implementation of Trade Facilitation Agreement provisions in circumstances where attempts to attract funding from other sources have failed. These grants will be limited to “soft infrastructure” projects, such as modernization of customs laws through consulting services, in-country workshops, or training of officials. 

Separately, a group of major international organizations came together on 22 July to recognize the development potential of the Trade Facilitation Agreement and to offer their assistance to WTO members in implementing their commitments under the Agreement.

In a joint statement the organizations declared their intention to work together to assist developing and least-developed Members through a range of technical assistance and capacity-building initiatives.

The organizations declared:

“(T)his coordinated and integrated approach will greatly assist developing, transition and least-developed countries to reap real and sustainable benefits from the Agreement and will result in stronger economic development for their citizens” 

The statement is signed by the following organizations:

  • International Trade Centre
  • Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
  • United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
  • United Nations Economic Commission for Europe on behalf of the UN Regional Commissions of ECLAC, ESCAP and ESCWA1
  • World Bank Group
  • World Customs Organization

 

Statement by DG Azevêdo

Good morning everyone. Thank you all for coming.

I am very pleased to be joined by Ambassador Kakonge, Ambassador Aparr and Ambassador Monyane, on behalf of the ACP, LDC and African Groups respectively.

I’m also pleased to be able to say that we are here to launch the new WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility.

Through this Facility we will enhance WTO technical assistance programs, support coordination between donors and recipients, and provide a source of funding for countries that are not able to access the assistance they require.

In this way the Facility will ensure that LDCs and developing countries receive the support they need in order to reap the full benefits of the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

I will take a few moments to outline the role and scope of this new WTO Facility in more detail, before handing over to each of the Coordinators to make their statements.

We won’t be opening to the floor today, as the purpose of this meeting is simply to present this new initiative to you. But there will be a specific item on this topic at the General Council meeting on Thursday — so there will be an opportunity then for delegations to make statements if they wish to do so.

After we close this morning’s meeting there will be a reception in the atrium with some refreshments provided — so I hope you will be able to join us to mark the occasion.

The Trade Facilitation Agreement broke new ground for the WTO in the way it will be implemented.

For the first time in the WTO’s history, the requirement to implement an agreement is directly linked to the capacity of the country to do so. In addition, the Agreement states that assistance and support should be provided to help them achieve that capacity.

Now, of course this was a very welcome and positive step, but it also caused some concerns. Members feared that some might find it difficult to access the necessary support.

The Group Coordinators raised these concerns with me. And I recognised that there was a need to take action.

Therefore, we began working together to develop a response. The Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility that we are launching today is the result of these coordinated efforts.

It has been designed in consultation with the Coordinators, with officials from a range of developing and least-developed countries, and with donor Members.  

I have been encouraged by the positive response we have received from all quarters.

It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. And this has proved true in the case of this Facility. It has taken many people and organizations to make it happen.

And to thrive and succeed it will continue to need the buy-in of us all — from developing and least-developed countries, to donors at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. 

But, as I say, the signs are very positive.

While we are launching the Facility here today, I’m pleased to say that the Annex D Plus organizations have issued a joint statement in support of our work. It recognizes the development potential of the TFA and pledges their co-operation and support for its implementation.

The statement is signed by:

  • The ITC,
  • OECD,
  • UNCTAD,
  • The World Bank Group
  • The World Customs Organization
  • And the United Nations Economic Commissions for: Europe; Latin America and the Caribbean; Asia and the Pacific; and Western Asia.

The WTO Secretariat has already been working closely with these organizations, and I know that many of you have already benefitted greatly from their assistance programs.

We have been working particularly closely with the World Bank.         I met President Kim in Rome at the meeting of the UN Chief Executives Board and we have been in regular touch on this issue.

In fact, we are planning to hold an event during my next visit to Washington to further explore how we can ensure that the Trade Facilitation facility of the World Bank operates in an efficient and expedited way, so that their support reaches those developing countries that need it — and to ensure that their work and the work of the new WTO Facility complement each other.

Depending on the format of the event, we will provide information to WTO members, so that you can send representatives to attend.

Of course, we have only been working on our Facility for a short time, but as we move forward we plan to deepen our dialogue with the World Bank and a number of other partner organizations.

So I am very pleased to welcome the renewed pledge of support from the Annex D plus organizations today.

On a related point, I understand that at least 14 countries have now submitted their Category A notifications. I congratulate them — and I encourage other Members that plan to request assistance to provide your notifications as soon as you can.  

By doing so you will help donors to assess the scope of the assistance that is needed — and therefore help them to be ready to provide it.

Of course, the new WTO Facility does not seek to replace existing assistance programs — far from it.

Rather, it is meant to complement and enhance them.

There is already a great deal of trade facilitation funding and support available. This Facility will add value in a number of areas — and it will ensure that no one is left behind.

So let’s look at some details of what the Facility will offer. 

First, the Facility will support LDCs and developing countries to assess their specific needs and identify possible development partners to help them meet those needs. 

In this way, our current needs assessment work will be brought under the Facility — as will our other TFA-related technical assistance programs. And we will expand these programs — to include, for example, assisting Members with preparation of notifications and scheduling.

Second, we will ensure the best possible conditions for the flow of information between donors and recipients by creating an information-sharing platform for the demand and supply of TFA-related technical assistance

We will compile information on assistance providers, share implementation experience and collate training materials. And we will continue to organize periodic meetings to facilitate exchanges between beneficiaries and donors. 

Put simply, we will ensure that Members know what help is out there and know how to access it.

Third, we will also help Members to access that help. We will do everything we can to match Members with donor funds to implement their projects.

And if the process proves difficult, under the Facility you will be able to formally request me, as Director-General, to act as a facilitator in securing funds for project implementation.

Fourth, the Facility will provide funds for the exceptional cases where countries have made thorough attempts to find assistance but have failed to receive the support they need. 

The facility provides for two types of funds to fill this gap.

The first is a grant to help in the preparation of projects. These funds may be given when a Member has identified a potential donor but has been unable to develop a project for that donor’s consideration. In this case, funding of up to 30,000 US dollars can be provided to fund expert support to help prepare the project proposal.

The second type of fund is for project implementation — specifically for “soft infrastructure” projects, such as modernization of customs laws through consulting services, in-country workshops, or training of officials. 

If a country finds itself in the situation where it simply cannot find a donor — even with our help — then they can apply to the Facility for a grant of up to 200,000 US dollars to implement their project.

In all of these areas we plan to make more information available in due course — but I think that this gives a more clear sense of what the Facility will offer.

At this point I would like to thank all of those who have made this possible.

The Facility will be funded on a voluntary basis by WTO donor Members.

I am delighted to say that a number of members have already pledged funds. Others have indicated strong support and are looking at making a contribution.

So thank you again.

I must be clear though that this support is to be strictly focused on the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement. The Facility is now ready — and, again, I need to be clear that it will become operational only when the protocol of amendment is adopted by WTO Members.

So I hope that we will keep making progress on that front as well.

And, while I trust this Facility will answer many of the concerns raised regarding TFA implementation, I know that there are others.

Clearly some Members still have concerns on the pace of progress on other Bali issues. I do understand these concerns and, together, we will be working in order to take all Bali decisions forward in a way that gives comfort to all Members.

I feel positive about our ability to conclude the work of the TFA Preparatory Committee within its mandated timeframes, which would allow the prompt operation of the new Facility.

Bali showed what we can achieve when we work together.

And I think we have demonstrated that again in our work here on the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility.

I received the written request to look at this issue in May. Just two months ago.

Since then we have worked hard to develop something completely new and which will help to deliver real support to LDCs and developing Members.

Moreover, I think that this work underscores the arguments we are currently making on the post-2015 development agenda — that trade and the post-Bali work programme must play a central role.  

So let’s make sure we don’t let things slip now.

Let’s keep working together to implement the TFA, get this new WTO Facility operational and push forward our work in all other areas — on the other Bali decisions and on the DDA.

That concludes my statement. I would like, again, to thank the coordinators for their work on the Facility. We would not be here now without their personal involvement and guidance.

And it is now my pleasure to give the floor to each of them — starting with Ambassador Kakonge of Kenya, coordinator of the ACP Group, who was actually the first to put this idea to me.

[The Director-General gave the floor to Ambassador Kakonge, Ambassador Aparr and Ambassador Monyane.]

Thank you Ambassadors. And thank you once again for your work, and your personal involvement and initiative in developing this Facility.

Now, I would like to invite everyone to join us in the Atrium for a reception to mark the occasion.

I know of course that many of you are observing Ramadan — so, Ramadan Mubarak to you. I hope you will still feel able to join the event.

Thank you all.

 

Notes:

1. United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) back to text

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