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Having regard to the Multilateral Trade Negotiations;
Desiring to further the objectives of GATT 1994;
Taking into account the particular trade, development and financial needs of developing country Members;
Recognizing the usefulness of automatic import licensing for certain purposes and that such licensing should not be used to restrict trade;
Recognizing that import licensing may be employed to administer measures such as those adopted pursuant to the relevant provisions of GATT 1994;
Recognizing the provisions of GATT 1994 as they apply to import licensing procedures;
Desiring to ensure that import licensing procedures are not utilized in a manner contrary to the principles and obligations of GATT 1994;
Recognizing that the flow of international trade could be impeded by the inappropriate use of import licensing procedures;
Convinced that import licensing, particularly non-automatic import licensing, should be implemented in a transparent and predictable manner;
Recognizing that non-automatic licensing procedures should be no more administratively burdensome than absolutely necessary to administer the relevant measure;
Desiring to simplify, and bring transparency to, the administrative procedures and practices used in international trade, and to ensure the fair and equitable application and administration of such procedures and practices;
Desiring to provide for a consultative mechanism and the speedy, effective and equitable resolution of disputes arising under this Agreement;
Hereby agree as follows:back to top
1. For the purpose of this Agreement, import licensing is defined as administrative procedures (1) used for the operation of import licensing regimes requiring the submission of an application or other documentation (other than that required for customs purposes) to the relevant administrative body as a prior condition for importation into the customs territory of the importing Member.
2. Members shall ensure that the administrative procedures used to implement import licensing regimes are in conformity with the relevant provisions of GATT 1994 including its annexes and protocols, as interpreted by this Agreement, with a view to preventing trade distortions that may arise from an inappropriate operation of those procedures, taking into account the economic development purposes and financial and trade needs of developing country Members.(2)
3. The rules for import licensing procedures shall be neutral in application and administered in a fair and equitable manner.
4. (a) The rules and all information concerning procedures for the submission of applications, including the eligibility of persons, firms and institutions to make such applications, the administrative body(ies) to be approached, and the lists of products subject to the licensing requirement shall be published, in the sources notified to the Committee on Import Licensing provided for in Article 4 (referred to in this Agreement as “the Committee”), in such a manner as to enable governments(3) and traders to become acquainted with them. Such publication shall take place, whenever practicable, 21 days prior to the effective date of the requirement but in all events not later than such effective date. Any exception, derogations or changes in or from the rules concerning licensing procedures or the list of products subject to import licensing shall also be published in the same manner and within the same time periods as specified above. Copies of these publications shall also be made available to the Secretariat.
(b) Members which wish to make comments in writing shall be provided the opportunity to discuss these comments upon request. The concerned Member shall give due consideration to these comments and results of discussion.
5. Application forms and, where applicable, renewal forms shall be as simple as possible. Such documents and information as are considered strictly necessary for the proper functioning of the licensing regime may be required on application.
6. Application procedures and, where applicable, renewal procedures shall be as simple as possible. Applicants shall be allowed a reasonable period for the submission of licence applications. Where there is a closing date, this period should be at least 21 days with provision for extension in circumstances where insufficient applications have been received within this period. Applicants shall have to approach only one administrative body in connection with an application. Where it is strictly indispensable to approach more than one administrative body, applicants shall not need to approach more than three administrative bodies.
7. No application shall be refused for minor documentation errors which do not alter basic data contained therein. No penalty greater than necessary to serve merely as a warning shall be imposed in respect of any omission or mistake in documentation or procedures which is obviously made without fraudulent intent or gross negligence.
8. Licensed imports shall not be refused for minor variations in value, quantity or weight from the amount designated on the licence due to differences occurring during shipment, differences incidental to bulk loading and other minor differences consistent with normal commercial practice.
11. The provisions of this Agreement shall not require any Member to disclose confidential information which would impede law enforcement or otherwise be contrary to the public interest or would prejudice the legitimate commercial interests of particular enterprises, public or private.back to top
Article 2: Automatic Import Licensing(4)
2. The following provisions(5), in addition to those in paragraphs 1 through 11 of Article 1 and paragraph 1 of this Article, shall apply to automatic import licensing procedures:
(a) automatic licensing procedures shall not be administered in such a
manner as to have restricting effects on imports subject to automatic
licensing. Automatic licensing procedures shall be deemed to
have trade-restricting effects unless, inter alia:
(i) any person, firm or institution which fulfils the legal requirements
of the importing Member for engaging in import operations involving
products subject to automatic licensing is equally eligible to apply
for and to obtain import licences;
(b) Members recognize that automatic import licensing may be necessary whenever other appropriate procedures are not available. Automatic import licensing may be maintained as long as the circumstances which gave rise to its introduction prevail and as long as its underlying administrative purposes cannot be achieved in a more appropriate way.back to top
1. The following provisions, in addition to those in paragraphs 1 through 11 of Article 1, shall apply to non-automatic import licensing procedures. Non-automatic import licensing procedures are defined as import licensing not falling within the definition contained in paragraph 1 of Article 2.
2. Non-automatic licensing shall not have trade-restrictive or —distortive effects on imports additional to those caused by the imposition of the restriction. Non-automatic licensing procedures shall correspond in scope and duration to the measure they are used to implement, and shall be no more administratively burdensome than absolutely necessary to administer the measure.
3. In the case of licensing requirements for purposes other than the implementation of quantitative restrictions, Members shall publish sufficient information for other Members and traders to know the basis for granting and/or allocating licences.
4. Where a Member provides the possibility for persons, firms or institutions to request exceptions or derogations from a licensing requirement, it shall include this fact in the information published under paragraph 4 of Article 1 as well as information on how to make such a request and, to the extent possible, an indication of the circumstances under which requests would be considered.
(iv) where practicable, import statistics (i.e. value and/or volume) with
respect to the products subject to import licensing. Developing
country Members would not be expected to take additional
administrative or financial burdens on this account;
(b) Members administering quotas by means of licensing shall publish the
overall amount of quotas to be applied by quantity and/or value, the
opening and closing dates of quotas, and any change thereof, within
the time periods specified in paragraph 4 of Article 1 and
in such a manner as to enable governments and traders to become
acquainted with them;
(c) in the case of quotas allocated among supplying countries, the Member
applying the restrictions shall promptly inform all other Members
having an interest in supplying the product concerned of the shares in
the quota currently allocated, by quantity or value, to the various
supplying countries and shall publish this information within the time
periods specified in paragraph 4 of Article 1 and in such a
manner as to enable governments and traders to become acquainted with
(d) where situations arise which make it necessary to provide for an early
opening date of quotas, the information referred to in paragraph 4
of Article 1 should be published within the time-periods
specified in paragraph 4 of Article 1 and in such a manner
as to enable governments and traders to become acquainted with them;
(e) any person, firm or institution which fulfils the legal and
administrative requirements of the importing Member shall be equally
eligible to apply and to be considered for a licence. If the
licence application is not approved, the applicant shall, on request,
be given the reason therefor and shall have a right of appeal or
review in accordance with the domestic legislation or procedures of
the importing Member;
(f) the period for processing applications shall, except when not possible
for reasons outside the control of the Member, not be longer than 30
days if applications are considered as and when received, i.e. on a
first-come first-served basis, and no longer than 60 days if all
applications are considered simultaneously. In the latter case,
the period for processing applications shall be considered to begin on
the day following the closing date of the announced application
(g) the period of licence validity shall be of reasonable duration and not
be so short as to preclude imports. The period of licence
validity shall not preclude imports from distant sources, except in
special cases where imports are necessary to meet unforeseen
(j) in allocating licences, the Member should consider the import
performance of the applicant. In this regard, consideration
should be given as to whether licences issued to applicants in the
past have been fully utilized during a recent representative period.
In cases where licences have not been fully utilized, the Member shall
examine the reasons for this and take these reasons into consideration
when allocating new licences. Consideration shall also be given
to ensuring a reasonable distribution of licences to new importers,
taking into account the desirability of issuing licences for products
in economic quantities. In this regard, special consideration
should be given to those importers importing products originating in
developing country Members and, in particular, the least-developed
(k) in the case of quotas administered through licences which are not
allocated among supplying countries, licence holders(6) shall
be free to choose the sources of imports. In the case of quotas
allocated among supplying countries, the licence shall clearly
stipulate the country or countries;
There is hereby established a Committee on Import Licensing composed of representatives from each of the Members. The Committee shall elect its own Chairman and Vice-Chairman and shall meet as necessary for the purpose of affording Members the opportunity of consulting on any matters relating to the operation of this Agreement or the furtherance of its objectives.back to top
5. Any interested Member which considers that another Member has not notified the institution of a licensing procedure or changes therein in accordance with the provisions of paragraphs 1 through 3 may bring the matter to the attention of such other Member. If notification is not made promptly thereafter, such Member may itself notify the licensing procedure or changes therein, including all relevant and available information.back to top
Consultations and the settlement of disputes with respect to any matter affecting the operation of this Agreement shall be subject to the provisions of Articles XXII and XXIII of GATT 1994, as elaborated and applied by the Dispute Settlement Understanding.back to top
1. The Committee shall review as necessary, but at least once every two years, the implementation and operation of this Agreement, taking into account the objectives thereof, and the rights and obligations contained therein.
2. As a basis for the Committee review, the Secretariat shall prepare a factual report based on information provided under Article 5, responses to the annual questionnaire on import licensing procedures(7) and other relevant reliable information which is available to it. This report shall provide a synopsis of the aforementioned information, in particular indicating any changes or developments during the period under review, and including any other information as agreed by the Committee.back to top
2. (a) Each Member shall ensure, not later than the date of entry into force of the WTO Agreement for it, the conformity of its laws, regulations and administrative procedures with the provisions of this Agreement.
- 1. Those procedures referred to as “licensing” as well as other similar administrative procedures. Back to text
- 2. Nothing in this Agreement shall be taken as implying that the basis, scope or duration of a measure being implemented by a licensing procedure is subject to question under this Agreement. Back to text
- 3. For the purpose of this Agreement, the term “governments” is deemed to include the competent authorities of the EuropeanCommunities. Back to text
- 4. Those import licensing procedures requiring a security which have no restrictive effects on imports are to be considered as falling within the scope of paragraphs 1 and 2. Back to text
- 5. A developing country Member, other than a developing country Member which was a Party to the Agreement on Import Licensing Procedures done on 12 April 1979, which has specific difficulties with the requirements of subparagraphs (a)(ii) and (a)(iii) may, upon notification to the Committee, delay the application of these subparagraphs by not more than two years from the date of entry into force of the WTO Agreement for such Member. Back to text
- 6. Sometimes referred to as “quota holders”. Back to text
- 7. Originally circulated as GATT 1947 document L/3515 of 23 March 1971. Back to text
Read a summary of the Agreement on Import Licensing Procedures
The texts reproduced in this section do not have the legal standing of the original documents which are entrusted and kept at the WTO Secretariat in Geneva.