I am very pleased to join you this morning.  I understand you had a productive regular meeting earlier this week ahead of this session on technical assistance and capacity building support.

The Trade Facilitation Committee provides a valuable feedback mechanism for the implementation of the TFA. It allows for experience sharing — what has worked for implementation, what can be done better, and how and where resources can be mobilized.

Trade facilitation work at the WTO has always been a ground-up, Member-led effort to deliver results. That approach was vital to steering the negotiations to a successful conclusion, and it continues to drive this committee today as we work to ensure that all members can reap the benefits of the TFA. 

Trade facilitation is a global public good as it helps to improve trade efficiency. Reducing fixed costs is particularly important for the small businesses that account for the lion's share of businesses and jobs globally, because they have thin margins and fewer resources than their larger competitors to devote to meeting border requirements.  

Trade facilitation and COVID

We know how the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered growth and disrupted trade and supply chains.

But we also know that trade facilitation enabled complex supply chains to connect, and bring together from many different countries the specialized inputs and capital goods needed for large-scale vaccine production.

We saw that the pandemic accelerated Members' efforts to implement the TFA in numerous areas, including transparency, simplification, automation, and border cooperation.

Amid the current slowdown in global economic activity and trade, smooth and efficient import, export and transit procedures are key to keep supply chains working so that delays and costs do not become an unnecessary weight on economic recovery. Implementing the WTO TFA is an important tool in our kit to rebuild damaged economies and boost resilience in the face of future emergencies.

Digital trade

I always say that the future of trade is digital, and the TFA is a powerful instrument to help seize the opportunities of digital trade. It promotes closer consultation among supply chain participants and greater border agency cooperation. And it supports the use of risk management, post-clearance audit and authorized operator programs, which can help border agencies strike an optimal balance between facilitating trade and ensuring security.

E-commerce has provided access to global trade for millions of small businesses, including businesses owned by women. And I've met several of these groups now as I've travelled around various countries. Trade facilitation can help expand these benefits. For example, micro, small and medium enterprises can be better integrated into global trade through pre-arrival processing, expedited shipments, and e-commerce.

We must also pay greater attention to how new technologies are creating new possibilities for trade facilitation. Border agencies in many parts of the world are already experimenting with blockchain, artificial intelligence, the internet of things and more. In time, with the necessary support and enabling environment, these developments can help border agencies cope better with expanding responsibilities and bring about improvements in various trade facilitation areas, for example single window interconnectivity and risk management. We should make time to explore how the trade facilitation toolkit is expanding.

Current implementation of the TFA

Five years into implementation of the Agreement, the global implementation rate for commitments stands at 74%. This is positive.  However, a breakdown of that figure shows that the rate for developing members and LDCs is about 66% and LDCs lag behind significantly at 37%.  So this is quite a lag. Landlocked developing countries also have a lower rate of implementing commitments, at 54%.

According to current notifications, we are on track to meet approximately 90% of implementation commitments by 2030. 

But the large gaps separating LDCs and LLDCs from that number make it clear that much important work remains to be done to provide support to these groups in particular, if they are to achieve the benefits of full implementation of the Agreement. Failing to come through will hurt the competitiveness of commercial operators in LDCs — something we should seek to avoid at all costs.

LDCs are most disadvantaged by global shocks resulting from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, and they vitally need access to increased investments in tools that improve the flow of trade across borders. These investments should reach beyond aid for trade to investments the support supply side capacity enhancements. 

Important role of donors and development agencies

I want to recognize the important contributions of development partners, many of you here in the room, which have been providing valued and significant financial and technical support, as well as capacity-building since the entry into force of the agreement.  But I also want to urge you to step up your efforts so we can achieve full implementation. We also need to better understand the opportunities for developing countries and LDCs, how they can benefit from the technological changes I mentioned earlier — and above how they can digitize trade and trade transactions.

This meeting to review progress on technical assistance provision and capacity building support is an important space for Members and development partners to engage in open and frank discussions on how to operationalize Section 2 of the TFA and meet Members' on-going needs for implementation support. Discussions and subsequent action must be led by the clear identification of existing technical assistance needs matched by willingness on the part of members and development partners to bridge these gaps.

Suggested areas of focus for the Committee

Let me just make suggestions for areas you might want to build on the Committee's accomplishments.

Firstly, I support the focus on reviewing technical assistance progress for members that have category C provisions coming up in the next 2 years. This is necessary to avoid the loss of momentum and slippage in implementation dates. With members now well into implementation, the need for support to build capacity, improve connectivity and strengthen trade-related infrastructure is becoming more urgent.

I encourage donors and development partners to show maximum flexibility in their efforts to provide targetted maximum support for the needs of members.

In addition to the specific focus on LDC needs, we also need to address the lagging rate of implementation of LLDCs. Last year the Secretariat produced a mapping exercise of the bottlenecks experienced by LLDCs and I believe that LLDCs are now carrying out a follow-up study on transit corridors. Donors and development partners have an important role to play in providing all necessary implementation support to this group.

A number of regional communities have spoken about regional trade facilitation strategies and regional trade facilitation committees.  This approach is welcome, since working together can support mutual implementation and enhance the impacts both for regional trade and trade with the rest of the world. Again, I encourage donors and development partners to work with regional communities to leverage available technical and financial assistance.

Experience-sharing in dedicated sessions like this since 2018 has become a valuable repository of information that could be better utilized by Members. The Committee could consider compiling the information shared regarding how TACB and financial assistance has been secured, and how challenges have been successfully overcome.


In conclusion, let me say that our work on TFA implementation has yielded many dividends, but that it is far from done. This annual dedicated session remains an important opportunity for those needing aid to connect and build relationships with donors and partners. Working together effectively requires effective communication both in capital and in Geneva. Donor Members and development partners must work alongside developing members and particularly least-developed and the LLDCs. I urge you to take this work forward, since it is an important part of our wider efforts to bring people and countries from the margins to the mainstream of the global economy. So thank you very much, I'm very proud of what you are doing and I wish you the best of luck.



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