At the 11 June meeting of the WTO’s Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation (PCTF), the chairman, Ambassador Esteban Conejos of the Philippines, said the number of "Category A" notifications received is an "encouraging sign of members’ continued commitment" to the TFA.
“I am especially heartened to see the number of LDC notifications on the rise with three additional LDC submissions (Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania),” the chairman added.
In addition to the three least-developed countries (LDCs), new Category A notifications have been received from Dominica, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago.
The TFA 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 states that assistance and support should be provided to help them achieve that capacity.
To benefit from this, developing and LDC members must notify the WTO which provisions they will implement when the Agreement enters into force or, in the case of LDCs, within one year after entry into force (Category A commitments); which provisions they will implement after a transitional period following the entry into force of the Agreement (Category B); and which provisions they will implement on a date after a transitional period following the entry into force of the Agreement and that require the acquisition of assistance and support for capacity building (Category C).
Ratifications trickling in…
The TFA will only enter into force once two-thirds of the WTO membership (108 members) has formally accepted the Agreement. To date, Hong Kong China, Singapore, the United States, Mauritius, Malaysia, Japan and Australia have ratified the TFA, representing 6 per cent of the total needed to ensure entry into force.
Viet Nam told the committee that its government has completed acceptance procedures and that the national parliament was expected to give its approval soon. The Philippines noted that the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum economies have committed to ratify the TFA as soon as possible, and ideally by the WTO’s 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in December, in order to express strong APEC support for a successful meeting.
Ambassador Conejos said he hoped the committee would be able to welcome a substantive number of new ratifications by the time the PCTF next meets in October.
Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility, national committees
WTO members also reviewed the latest state of play regarding the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF), which became operational in November 2014. New contributions to the fund continue to come in, most recently from Austria, Norway, Australia and the United Kingdom.
The TFAF was created at the request of developing country and LDC members to help ensure that they receive the assistance needed to reap the full benefits of the TFA and to support the ultimate goal of full implementation of the new agreement by all members. The TFAF will support these countries in assessing their specific needs and identifying possible development partners to help them meet those needs through a diverse number of activities.
Cameroon expressed concern that, with entry into force for the Agreement approaching, funding for the TFAF appeared to be limited. The European Union noted that the TFAF was intended as a backstop to help developing and LDC countries that are unable to secure assistance from bilateral or regional donors (note: the World Bank has $7.1 billion for overall TF reforms, with $30 million earmarked specifically for implementation of the TFA). The United States said it has disbursed some $4 billion in funding for trade facilitation activities since 2008 and has a number of new projects under way in Central America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Members also heard from Malaysia, Mexico, Guatemala, Nigeria, Dominica, Brazil, Viet Nam, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nigeria on the progress they have made, and the challenges they confronted, in establishing national committees on trade facilitation. The TFA calls on members to establish and/or maintain a national committee on trade facilitation, or designate an existing mechanism, to facilitate both domestic coordination and implementation of the provisions of the Agreement.
Concluded at the WTO’s 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference, the Trade Facilitation Agreement contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.
The Protocol of Amendment inserting the TFA into Annex 1A of the WTO Agreement was subsequently adopted by the General Council on 27 November 2014. This in turn opened the door for members to formally accept the TFA through their domestic legislative procedures.
More information on trade facilitation and the TFA can be found at www.wto.org/tradefacilitation
Dedicated website for the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility
This site serves as a focal point for WTO members, donors and others seeking information on the TFAF.
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