Members considered 43 notifications received since the last Committee meeting in October 2019. Canada, China, the European Union, Japan, the Russian Federation and the United States took the floor at the meeting to remind members to submit information to the WTO about implementation timelines, trade procedures, contact points, and other details required under the Agreement. The US also drew attention to the upcoming deadline of 22 February for least-developed countries (LDCs) to notify definitive dates when they would implement certain TFA provisions for which they required transition periods.
Under the TFA, which seeks to expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods across borders, developing countries and LDCs can self-designate which provisions they will implement either immediately (Category A), after a transition period (Category B), or upon receiving assistance and support for capacity building (Category C). They are required to communicate these choices within stipulated timeframes. Developed countries were required to implement all provisions of the TFA from its entry into force on 22 February 2017.
Out of 29 LDCs that are required to submit the Category B notification mentioned above by 22 February, nine have been received so far according to the Secretariat report presented at the meeting. The deadline for developing countries to make the same notification had been two years ago. The Secretariat report also noted that nine developing country members have designated all TFA measures as Category A, meaning they had committed to implement the Agreement in full immediately when it entered into force. These are Chile; Hong Kong, China; Israel; Korea; Mexico; Saudi Arabia; Singapore; Chinese Taipei, and Turkey.
Full implementation of the Agreement, which seeks to expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods across borders, is forecast to slash members' trade costs by an average of 14.3 per cent, with developing and least-developed countries having the most to gain, according to a 2015 study carried out by WTO economists. The TFA is also likely to reduce the time needed to import goods by over a day and a half and to export goods by almost two days, representing a reduction of 47 per cent and 91 per cent respectively over the current average.
The Secretariat also reported that 91 per cent of the membership, or 149 WTO members, have ratified the TFA roughly three years since it entered into force on 22 February 2017 when the WTO crossed the required threshold of 110 member ratifications. Guinea, Burundi and Cabo Verde were the latest to ratify the TFA since the last Committee meeting.
As of 11 February, the current rate of implemented commitments under the TFA stood at 64.7 per cent. Broken down by level of development, this equates to a 100 per cent rate of implementation by developed members, 63.9 per cent among developing members and 29.6 per cent among LDCs. Six developing country members have reached 100 per cent rate of implementation commitments as their B and/or C measures are now due to be applied according to their notifications. These are Brazil; China; Georgia; Macao, China; North Macedonia, and Oman. The implementation rate for each WTO member can be viewed here.
The Committee also heard presentations from Chile, Ecuador, India, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, the United States about experiences in implementing TFA provisions. The US introduced a suggestion, welcomed by many members, for the Committee to explore next step to capitalize on the experience sharing particularly on the establishment of National Trade Facilitation Committees. Representatives of the WTO TFA Facility, UN Conference on Trade and Development, and the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation updated members on their respective projects in support of TFA implementation.
Kyrgyz Republic transit concern
At the same meeting, the Kyrgyz Republic raised questions about Kazakhstan's customs inspections on goods in transit from the Kyrgyz Republic through Kazakhstan. Kyrgyz Republic Deputy Minister of Economy Eldar Alisherov said that since March 2019, inspections by Kazakh authorities have delayed the movement of goods in transit from the Kyrgyz Republic. In response, Kazakhstan said its measures are compliant with WTO rules and are necessary to ensure correct customs declarations. Kazakhstan further noted that, as both countries are members of the Eurasian Economic Union, they should use mechanisms there to resolve the issue.
China's intervention on the coronavirus
China took the floor to call on WTO members to avoid imposing unnecessary trade restrictions amid the ongoing coronavirus epidemic. China said that an overreaction to the health issue would impact not only the Chinese economy but the world economy as well. China also expressed appreciation for members' support and hoped that all would work together to tackle this global challenge.
The next Committee meeting will be on 19-20 May.