TRADE FACILITATION

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According to the update , the current rate of implementation of TFA commitments stood at 70.1 per cent for the entire WTO membership as of 22 April. This figure is expected to rise to 83 per cent by 2023 based on the notifications members had submitted on their respective implementation dates. Broken down by level of development, the current rate of implementation commitments equates to a 100 per cent rate of implementation by developed members and 61 per cent among developing members and least developed countries (LDCs). The implementation rate for each WTO member can be viewed here.

The Secretariat also reported on how much information has been received from members about technical assistance needs and available support to fully implement the TFA. Ninety-five members have notified their “Category C” designations, which identify the TFA provisions for which a member needs additional time and assistance. Eighty-seven of those members have notified the technical assistance they need, with 14 of them having notified arrangements with donors and progress with technical assistance. Members were also updated on new features tracking implementation and technical assistance on the TFA Database as well as the outstanding notifications they are required to submit. A matrix tracking members' progress on notifications can be viewed here.

Members considered 32 notifications received since the last Committee meeting in March 2021.

Members also continued to discuss plans to conduct the first-ever review of TFA implementation, which is due this year, four years after the Agreement's entry into force on 22 February 2017. The Chair reported on members' informal discussions on the matter which took place on 22 April.  Suggestions include analysing the provision of technical assistance and capacity building, identifying gaps members have experienced in securing technical assistance, the distribution of funds, and the impact of COVID-19 on LDCs. Additionally, members made suggestions on possible elements for inclusion in the background factual report being prepared by the Secretariat. Proposals include providing sample texts where members could add their comments and additional information that they wish to share regarding the domestic effect of implementation of the TFA.

New proposals

Members considered a proposal from the United States calling for the TFA Facility (TFAF) to fall under the purview and direction of the Committee. The TFAF was created at the request of developing and LDC members to support the full implementation of the Agreement. Members expressed mixed views and sought further discussions.

Members also considered a proposal from Norway and the United States to eliminate “consularization requirements,” or procedures that require paperwork from consuls for customs documentation in connection with merchandise importation. Several members welcomed the proposal and indicated that consularization is an obstacle to trade. They shared experiences on initiatives that can reduce and preferably eliminate consularization requirements.

However, other members indicated that they needed more information and clarity to ensure the proposal does not conflict with Article 24, paragraph 6 of the TFA, which refers to WTO members' obligations under the GATT 1994 and other WTO agreements. Some members suggested moving towards digitalization of custom procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States and Norway exhibited willingness for dialogue and consultations with members on possible revision of the proposal.

Cambodia, Turkey, and the United States presented their experiences in implementing the TFA. The presentations were intended to raise awareness of implementation issues and encourage stakeholders to recognize the value of implementing the TFA in a timely and comprehensive manner.

In addition, in a webinar held before the Committee meeting, the Global Express Association — which represents major international express delivery firms — gave a presentation on the private sector's tools and databases for assessing members' implementation of the TFA.

The date of the next Committee meeting is 22-23 June 2021.

Background

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.

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