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Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

TRADE FACILITATION: BACKGROUND

Trade facilitation

Trade facilitation became a topic of discussion at the WTO at the Singapore Ministerial Conference in December 1996, when members directed the Council for Trade in Goods “to undertake exploratory and analytical work . . . on the simplification of trade procedures in order to assess the scope for WTO rules in this area” (Singapore Ministerial Declaration (paragraph 21)).

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After several years of exploratory work, WTO members formally agreed to launch negotiations on trade facilitation in July 2004, on the basis of modalities contained in Annex D of the so-called “July package”. Under this mandate, members are directed to clarify and improve GATT Article V (Freedom of Transit), Article VIII (Fees and Formalities connected with Importation and Exportation), and Article X (Publication and Administration of Trade Regulations).

Hundreds of proposals made by members, individually or through groups or alliances, were submitted for consideration by the Negotiating Group. After months of painstaking streamlining and revisions, the proposals became part of the final text of the Trade Facilitation Agreement agreed by members at the Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013.