Concluded at the WTO's 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference, the TFA seeks to expedite 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.
First Review of the Operation and Implementation of the TFA
Participants reviewed a factual report prepared by the WTO Secretariat on the First Review of the Operation and Implementation of the TFA. The TFA requires the Committee on Trade Facilitation to review the operation and implementation of the Agreement four years from its entry into force, and periodically thereafter. The TFA entered into force on 22 February 2017 following its ratification by two-thirds of the WTO membership.
In relation to the review, the chair of the committee, Christopher O’Toole (Canada), reported that new proposals were submitted by Brazil and the United States (G/TFA/W/42), the European Union (G/TFA/W/45) and Japan (G/TFA/W/46). He said an initial draft of the First Review report would be circulated towards the end of July.
Update on commitments to implement the TFA
The Secretariat reported on how much information has been received from members regarding their commitments to implement the TFA, their technical assistance needs and available support to fully implement their TFA commitments. Ninety-five members have notified their Category C designations, which identify the TFA provisions for which a member needs additional time and assistance. Eighty-eight of those members have notified the technical assistance they need, with 15 of them having notified arrangements with donors and progress with technical assistance.
A matrix tracking members' progress on notifications can be viewed here.
Recent and upcoming implementation deadlines
The Secretariat also reported on recent and upcoming deadline dates for developing and least developed country (LDC) members to implement their TFA commitments, based on the timelines they chose and notified to the committee. The Secretariat noted that 75 members have implementation deadlines for 399 trade facilitation measures over the period May 2021 to December 2022, while 41 members have implementation deadlines for 149 measures from now until the end of 2021.
The chair said this situation of pending implementation deadlines highlights the urgency of securing the necessary technical assistance and capacity building to allow for implementation of these provisions in accordance with members' commitments. He urged members to submit their notifications of donor arrangements and technical assistance progress, which is an important tool in the efforts to fill the gaps in the securing of necessary technical assistance.
Notifications and experience sharing
The committee reviewed 32 notifications received from members since the last committee meeting in March 2021 regarding their implementation and administration of the TFA.
China, Nepal, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Vanuatu, together with United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, made presentations on their TFA implementation efforts and initiatives, while the International Trade Centre outlined support it is providing to WTO members for implementation.
All experience-sharing presentations can be found here
Renewed call for accelerated implementation of the TFA
Twenty-three WTO members issued a joint call for parties to the TFA to accelerate implementation of the Agreement in order to support the timely and efficient release of global goods, particularly in view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The call, first issued in October 2020 by four members, notes that the COVID-19 pandemic requires a global response and that cross-border trade is a critical channel for getting essential products to those who need them. The co-sponsors said the TFA provides predictability, simplicity and uniformity in customs and other border procedures and that the Agreement is playing a crucial role to help traders respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The committee had a second exchange on the proposal “Revisiting the need for global action to eliminate consularization requirements”. Consularization refers to procedures that require paperwork from diplomatic consuls for customs documentation in connection with merchandise importation.
The next meeting of the Committee on Trade Facilitation will take place on 19 July.
More information on trade facilitation and the TFA is available here.