Trade facilitation

Bureaucratic delays and “red tape” pose a burden for moving goods across borders for traders. Trade facilitation—the simplification, modernization and harmonization of export and import processes—has therefore emerged as an important issue for the world trading system.

WTO members concluded negotiations at the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference on the landmark Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which entered into force on 22 February 2017 following its ratification by two-thirds of the WTO membership. 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.

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I. Introduction

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II. The Agreement 

The TFA entered into force on 22 February 2017 after two-thirds of the WTO membership completed their domestic ratification process.


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III. Benefits of the TFA

Estimates show that the full implementation of the TFA could reduce trade costs by an average of 14.3% and boost global trade by up to $1 trillion per year, with the biggest gains in the poorest countries. For the first time in WTO history, the requirement to implement the Agreement is directly linked to the capacity of the country to do so. A Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF) has been created to help ensure developing and least-developed countries obtain the assistance needed to reap the full benefits of the TFA.

Further information is available in a 2015 study by WTO economists.


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IV. Technical assistance and capacity building 

Technical assistance for trade facilitation is provided by the WTO, WTO members and other intergovernmental organizations, including the World Bank, the World Customs Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In July 2014, the WTO announced the launch of the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility, which assists developing and least-developed countries in implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement. The Facility became operational with the adoption of the Trade Facilitation Protocol on 27 November 2014.

More information on the Facility is available here.

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V. Committee on Trade Facilitation

The Committee on Trade Facilitation oversees the implementation of the Agreement on Trade Facilitation and provides a forum for members to raise and address related questions and concerns. The current chair is .

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VI. Implementation

Developed countries have committed to apply the substantive portions of the TFA from the date it takes effect.

Developing countries and least-developed countries (LDCs), meanwhile, will only apply those substantive provisions of the TFA which they have indicated they are in a position to do so from the date of the TFA's entry into force. LDCs were given an additional year to do so. These commitments are set out in the submitted Category A notifications.

Category B notifications from developing countries and LDCs list the provisions the WTO member will implement after a transitional period following the entry into force of the TFA.

Category C notifications contain provisions that a developing country or LDC designates for implementation on a date after a transition period and requiring the acquisition of implementation capacity through the provision and assistance of capacity building.

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VII. Resources 


Working Papers

Briefing Note

Dedicated website for the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility

This site serves as a focal point for WTO members, donors and others seeking information on the TFAF. 

Dedicated website for the Trade Facilitation Agreement Database

The TFA Database is a tool to track and analyse WTO Members' commitments under the Trade Facilitation Agreement