At a meeting of the WTO’s Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation (PCTF), representatives from more than a dozen delegations said the domestic ratification process for the TFA was already underway, with some delegations outlining target dates for securing approval.
However, a number of developing country members highlighted the domestic legislative hurdles that will need to be overcome to secure acceptance. Several indicated they were not in a position to ensure ratification by the Nairobi meeting, which will take place on 15-18 December.
To date, four WTO members — Hong Kong (China), Singapore, the United States and Mauritius — have secured domestic acceptance of the TFA, which was concluded at the WTO’s 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference. Two-thirds of the WTO’s 160 members will need to ratify the TFA in order for the agreement to enter into force.
There is no deadline for securing the two-thirds threshold. However, Kenyan foreign minister Amina Mohamed has said she would like WTO members to achieve entry into force of the TFA by the Nairobi meeting.
Ambassador Esteban Conejos of the Philippines, the chairperson of the PCTF, told members he understood a considerable number of additional WTO members have started the ratification process. The challenge, he said, is that the process is domestic in nature and differs from country to country.
Those reporting that domestic acceptance procedures are now underway were Chile, China, Colombia, El Salvador, the European Union, Georgia, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Norway, Saudi Arabia and Chinese Taipei. Japan, New Zealand and Switzerland also gave more detailed explanations of their domestic acceptance processes now underway.
Several African delegations (Nigeria, South Africa) highlighted the challenges they face in securing acceptance, including the need to make changes in domestic legislation. Colombia also highlighted the long legislative process required domestically to ensure acceptance, which it believed other Latin American countries shared.
Category A notifications
Amb. Conejos also informed delegations that 55 notifications have now been received from developing country members outlining their “Category A” commitments — those provisions under Section I of the TFA that they intend to implement upon entry into force of the agreement. In particular, the chairperson said he was especially heartened to see the first notification from a least-developed country (Senegal).
“I understand that more notifications are currently being prepared, which is a very welcome development,” the chairperson added.
The PCTF noted the receipt of ten new Category A notifications since its last meeting. In addition to Senegal, the new notifications are from Botswana, Egypt, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Gabon, Jamaica, Macao (China), Montenegro, Nigeria and Pakistan.
The WTO Secretariat has prepared a compilation of all Category A notifications received to date, which is available here.
Concluded at the WTO’s 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference, the TFA 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.
The PCTF is responsible for ensuring the expeditious entry into force of the agreement and to prepare for the efficient operation of the agreement upon its entry into force.
More information on trade facilitation and the TFA can be found at www.wto.org/tradefacilitation