Members exchange experiences with implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement
At the 9-11 October meeting of the Committee on Trade Facilitation, WTO members held discussions on their respective policies and experiences in enhancing the efficient movement of goods across borders in order to help each other fully implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). Members also took stock of progress made, and of activities being organized, to support the Agreement’s implementation.
A number of delegations delivered presentations on their experiences with screening “authorized economic operators” eligible for eased customs procedures. Members were also given presentations on transit policies for goods destined for third countries, the implementation of “single windows” for traders to accomplish multiple transactions with several agencies through one contact point, and the benefits of providing advance rulings to traders who may want clarity on the duties they will be expected to pay at the country of destination before the goods are shipped.
Members welcomed the richness of the discussions, the high number of questions and comments, and the attendance of capital-based experts at the meeting. The Committee chair, Ms Dalia Kadišiene (Lithuania), said the discussions were valuable and that there would be more opportunities for such exchanges at the next meeting.
Members also considered an update from the WTO Secretariat on the progress made in ratifying and implementing the TFA. As of 9 October, 84 per cent of the membership, or 138 members, had submitted their acceptance instruments for the Agreement, which entered into force on 22 February 2017, when the WTO crossed the required threshold of 110 member ratifications. Uganda and Burkina Faso were the latest to ratify the TFA since the last Committee meeting in June.
The current rate of implemented commitments under the TFA stands at 60.8 per cent. Broken down by level of development, this equates to a 100 per cent rate of implementation by developed members, 59.6 per cent among developing members and 22.3 per cent among least developed countries (LDCs). Developed countries committed to implement the Agreement in full upon its entry into force, while developing and least-developed members set their own timetables for implementing the TFA, taking into account their respective capacities. These commitments have been communicated to the WTO in a series of notifications.
Under the Agreement, developing countries will immediately apply the TFA provisions they have designated as Category A commitments. For the other provisions of the Agreement, they must indicate when these will be implemented and what capacity-building support is needed to help them implement these provisions, known as Category B and C commitments. These can be implemented at a later date, with LDCs given more time to notify these commitments.
So far, the WTO has received notifications from 114 members of Category A commitments, approaching the overall number of notifications in this area that is expected to be received. The current number of Category B notifications stands at 71, and at 60 notifications for Category C.
The Committee reviewed a total of 21 new notifications from members regarding their respective timetables and assistance needs to implement provisions of the TFA, import and export procedures and other information helpful for traders and governments, and details of available and requested technical assistance and support for capacity building. Members debated how to improve discussions of notifications for future meetings. Norway said it would be soon circulating to members a proposal on formalizing the Committee's rules of procedure.
Members also heard updates on recent and upcoming activities and discussed the administration of the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility, which was set up to help developing and LDC members assess their specific needs and to identify possible development partners to help them meet those needs.
The next meeting of the Committee on Trade Facilitation will be held in February.
Press-release at the WTO official web-site