Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

WTO workshop on technical assistance and capacity building in trade facilitation

As mandated by the 1996 Singapore Ministerial Declaration, the Council for Trade in Goods has undertaken “exploratory and analytical work, drawing on the work of other relevant organizations, on the simplification of trade procedures in order to assess the scope for WTO rules in this area.”

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10-11 May 2001


WTO Members have noted that a variety of technical assistance programmes are being provided both bilaterally and through regional or multilateral programmes. Capacity building and technical assistance can be important elements for the successful implementation of trade facilitation programs. Members also noted that technical cooperation efforts of intergovernmental agencies, donor and recipient governments could be improved through better coordination.

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The workshop provided the opportunity for an exchange of views amongst the relevant parties — donors, recipients, international organizations — on the role of technical assistance and capacity building in trade facilitation. The workshop allowed Members to take stock of the nature and scope of past and current programmes, to ascertain areas of expertise of the various providers of technical assistance, and to develop a better understanding of the needs of recipients.

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Program structure  

The workshop consisted of 4 Sessions:

Session 1 and Session 2 provided a platform for international organizations and donor governments respectively to provide overviews of their trade facilitation-related technical assistance activities over the last three years. Such activities included assistance in the modernization of trade (and in particular customs and border-crossing) administration, implementation of multilateral instruments such as WTO Agreements or the HS Convention; and infrastructure projects.

Session 3 provided an opportunity for recipients of technical assistance to share their experiences in trade facilitation-related reforms, assess the importance of technical assistance, and inform Members on lessons learnt in their own efforts of moving towards a more facilitative environment for trade.

 Speakers representing both providers and recipients of technical assistance should focus on the following points from their respective perspectives:

  • outline what their focus has been in trade facilitation projects (priority list);

  • highlight some projects;

  • in case of land-locked countries, address measures taken to alleviate transit- and transit-related problems;

  • summarize the “lessons learnt,” i.e. experiences of what strategies and measures have worked, what has not worked, and why;

  • comment on the importance of maintenance and monitoring of programs after implementation;

  • state what they see as the biggest challenges in the coming years;

  • comment on the question of coordination between bilateral donors and international organizations.

The presentations could be a starting-point for the creation of an inventory of assistance provided in the area. Other Members providing or receiving assistance (other than those making presentations) could supplement this inventory with their own information.

Session 4 focused on the contribution that the private sector could make to capacity building and technical assistance. The objective of this session was to discuss examples of concrete cooperation of business with customs administrations, and to explore opportunities for future private sector-government partnership in the development and execution of trade facilitation programmes. 


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Download the presentations made by the speakers at the four sessions of the Workshop