TRADE FACILITATION

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Roughly three-quarters or 121 of the 164 WTO members as of 19 July have ratified the TFA according to an update from the WTO Secretariat. Since the last committee meeting on 16 May, three more members have ratified the TFA: Qatar, The Gambia and Malawi. The WTO Secretariat said the ratifications continued to come in at a steady pace and that several more are in the pipeline.

The TFA entered into force on 22 February when the requirement for two-thirds of the WTO membership to formally accept the agreement was met. The TFA contains provisions to expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. The TFA 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 Agreement is unique in that it allows developing and least-developed countries to set their own timetables for implementing the TFA depending on their capacities to do so. Developed countries have committed to immediately implement the Agreement. Developing countries, in comparison, will immediately apply only the TFA provisions they have designated as “Category A” commitments (or in the case of least developed country (LDC) members, within one year after entry into force). For the other provisions of the Agreement, developing countries and LDCs must indicate when these will be implemented and what capacity building support is needed to help them implement these provisions, known as Category B and C commitments. According to the Secretariat, 96 developing country members and LDCs have submitted notifications for these three categories as of 19 July. Developing country members’ and LDCs’ notifications of A, B and C commitments are available here.

The Secretariat also provided an update on the progress in donor members’ notifications of their assistance and capacity building programmes as well as contact points and mechanisms for beneficiary members to request such help. Furthermore, an update on the submission of information required under Section 1 of the Agreement for transparency in areas such as single windows and enquiry points was also provided.

“This is positive news on the ratification front and for the progress in the notifications side but there is room for improvement,” committee chair Ambassador Daniel Blockert (Sweden) said.

Several members at the meeting called for continued submission of the outstanding ratifications and notifications.

Members also continued to work on defining the work of the new committee. The chair said that members were continuing their consultations on the committee’s rules of procedures based on a proposal by Argentina, Norway and Japan. Members also discussed the committee’s future substantive work, including notifications, experience sharing, and updates on technical assistance and capacity building.

The Secretariat provided an update on the 2017 activities of the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF), which was created at the request of developing and LDC members  to help ensure that they receive the assistance they need to reap the full benefits of the Agreement. Recent activities included sessions at the Aid for Trade Global Review, workshops in the Asia Pacific, African, Latin American and Caribbean regions, and courses for chairs of National Trade Facilitation Committees with the help of partner organizations.

The next committee meeting will be held in October.

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