The Chair of the Committee, Mr Christopher O'Toole (Canada), following consultations with members, noted the Committee's collective desire to conduct a well grounded review oriented towards identifying positive outcomes as well as aspects for improvement in the implementation of the TFA.
Members agreed to a roadmap which aims to conclude the review by the end of the year, with the objective of having it completed ahead of the 12th Ministerial Conference which will happen in late 2021. Under the roadmap, members will submit proposals for consideration in the review, which will then be discussed at the margins of the Committee's formal meetings throughout the year. The timetable also includes discussions of a draft factual report that will be prepared by the WTO Secretariat. In the context of the review, the Committee discussed a proposal from the United States to update the agenda of future Committee meetings to reflect TFA timelines, including notification deadlines that have already passed.
The current rate of implementation of TFA commitments stood at 69.7 per cent for the entire WTO membership as of 3 March according to the update the Secretariat provided to the Committee at the meeting. Broken down by level of development, this equates to a 100 per cent rate of implementation by developed members, 70.3% per cent among developing members and 35.9 per cent among least developed countries (LDCs). The implementation rate for each WTO member can be viewed here.
The Secretariat also reported on the outstanding notifications members are required to submit under the TFA. A matrix tracking members' progress on notifications can be viewed here. A number of members sought more information on the reason behind delayed notifications, which the Chair noted could be a pertinent issue to discuss in the TFA review.
Members considered 17 notifications received since the last Committee meeting in January 2021. The Committee did not reach consensus regarding three requests seeking an extension of implementation dates. The Chair noted that members, nevertheless, had expressed openness to discuss implementation delays to come to an understanding for future situations.
Members also discussed again the issue of trade facilitation in light of the COVID-19 crisis. The communication supporting the timely and efficient release of global goods through the accelerated implementation of the TFA drew six more co-signatories: Canada, Korea, Mexico, Singapore, Thailand and Turkey. A proposal from the European Union for the Secretariat to compile information on COVID-19 related responses that members and observers have provided the Committee so far remained under consideration.
The Committee heard presentations and updates from Brazil, the World Customs Organization, the UN Conference on Trade and Development and the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility on their respective work on trade facilitation.
The next Committee meeting is scheduled for 22-23 April.
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 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 TFA states that assistance and support should be provided to help them achieve that capacity.
More information on trade facilitation and the TFA is available here.