Overview of trade facilitation work until mid-1998

Since Singapore, exploratory work has been carried out through a background note prepared by the WTO Secretariat on work already done or being done on the subject of trade facilitation in other international organizations, including non-governmental organizations (G/C/W/80) (download in WordPerfect Word format, 64 pages, 318KB). 

The background note describes the work of more than 15 organizations which are dealing with all possible aspects of simplification of trade procedures. It has been updated in 1998, (G/C/W/80/Add.1) (download in Microsoft Word format, 13 pages, 79KB) and 2000, (G/C/W/80 Rev.1) (download in Microsoft Word format, 82 pages, 406KB) respectively.

In December 1997, the Council for trade in Goods decided to hold a Symposium on Trade Facilitation with the purpose enable delegations to better identify the main areas where traders face obstacles when moving goods across borders. The symposium provided a direct interface between the practical level (traders) and the trade policy level (officials in capitals and in Geneva) in this respect and was intended to place WTO Members in a position to move to the phase of analytical work on trade facilitation, in order to assess the scope for WTO rules in this area, as set out in the Singapore Declaration.

The WTO Trade Facilitation Symposium took place on 9 and 10 March 1998 at the WTO. Twenty-seven speakers from private enterprises and industry groups gave an overview of a number of areas where traders face obstacles when moving goods across borders. Speakers from intergovernmental organizations (IMF, ITC, UNCTAD, UN/ECE, World Bank, and World Customs Organization) reported on the experiences in their work on trade facilitation. On 18 March 1998, the Chairman of the CTG made a brief summary of the outcome of the Symposium, circulated in document G/L/226 (download in WordPerfect format, 2 pages, 90KB), where he concluded that the main concerns traders had voiced during be Symposium could be summarized under the following headings:

  • Excessive documentation requirements;

  • Lack of automation and insignificant use of information-technology;

  • Lack of transparency; unclear and unspecified import and export requirements;

  • Inadequate procedures; especially a lack of audit-based controls and risk-assessment techniques;

  • Lack of modernization of, and cooperation among customs and other government agencies, which thwarts efforts to deal effectively with increased trade flows.

The Secretariat circulated a “Checklist of issues” (G/C/W/113) (download in Microsoft Word format, 9 pages, 54KB), summarizing all concrete suggestions made at the Symposium, and a longer factual report on the Symposium, (G/C/W/115) (download in Microsoft Word format, 206 pages, 758KB) containing full copies or transcripts of the presentations made and the ensuing discussions. In addition, the text of the Secretariat’s presentation on WTO rules relevant to trade facilitation, which was made during the Symposium, was circulated (G/L/244) (download in Microsoft Word format, 6 pages, 49KB).


back to top

Papers submitted until mid-1998  


WTO Secretariat

28 February 1997

Trade Facilitation — Background note by the Secretariat


WTO Secretariat

23 May 1997

Trade Facilitation — Background note by the Secretariat


European Communities

20 August 1997

Trade Facilitation



30 September 1997

Trade Facilitation — Draft Plan of Action


Statement by the Chairman of the CTG

18 March 1998

Statement concerning the Trade Facilitation Symposium


WTO Secretariat

20 April 1998

Checklist of Issues Raised During the WTO Trade Facilitation Symposium



26 May 1998

Swiss Proposal for Future Work in the WTO


WTO Secretariat

29 May 1998

WTO Trade Facilitation Symposium — Report by the Secretariat


WTO Secretariat

15 May 1998

WTO rules relevant to Trade Facilitation — Statement by the Director of the Market Access Division