Mali deposited its TFA instrument of acceptance with the WTO Secretariat on 20 January. On the same day, Mali deposited its instrument of acceptance for the 2005 Protocol amending the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
Mali is the 68th WTO member to ratify the TFA. The Agreement will enter into force once two-thirds of the WTO membership has formally accepted the Agreement.
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.
In addition to Mali, the following WTO members have also accepted the TFA: Hong Kong China, Singapore, the United States, Mauritius, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, Botswana, Trinidad and Tobago, the Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, Niger, Belize, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, China, Liechtenstein, Lao PDR, New Zealand, Togo, Thailand, the European Union (on behalf of its 28 member states), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Pakistan, Panama, Guyana, Côte d’Ivoire, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Kenya, Myanmar, Norway, Viet Nam, Brunei Darussalam, Ukraine, Zambia, Lesotho, Georgia, Seychelles, and Jamaica.
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.
A Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF) was also created at the request of developing and least-developed country 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. Further information on TFAF is available at www.TFAFacility.org.
Implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement has the potential to increase global merchandise exports by up to $1 trillion per annum, according to the WTO’s flagship World Trade Report released on 26 October. Significantly, the Report also found that developing countries will benefit significantly from the TFA, capturing more than half of the available gains.
The 2005 Protocol Amending the TRIPS Agreement makes permanent a decision on patents and public health originally adopted in 2003. That decision, adopted in the form of a waiver, was intended to make it easier for poorer countries to obtain cheaper generic versions of patented medicines by setting aside a provision of the TRIPS Agreement that could hinder exports of pharmaceuticals manufactured under compulsory licences to countries that are unable to produce them.
Once two-thirds of members have formally accepted the Protocol, the amendment to the TRIPS Agreement will take effect in those members and will replace the 2003 waiver for them. For each of the remaining members, the waiver will continue to apply until that member accepts the amendment and it takes effect.
Mali is the 13th African member to formally accept the Protocol and the 8th least-developed country from Africa to do so. More information on the issue of TRIPS and public health is available here.