WTO Members discuss progress and assistance on Trade Facilitation Agreement’s 2nd year
World Trade Organisation (WTO) members took stock of progress in implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) at the 12-13 February meeting of the Committee on Trade Facilitation, a week before the second anniversary of the Agreement’s entry into force.
Members considered a report from the WTO Secretariat, which found that 141 or 86% of WTO members have now ratified the TFA roughly two years since it entered into force on 22 February 2017 when the WTO crossed the required threshold of 110 member ratifications. Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Ecuador were the latest to ratify the TFA since the last Committee meeting in October 2018. Egypt at the meeting said it would soon ratify the Agreement.
Full implementation of the Agreement, which seeks to expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods across borders, is forecast to slash members’ trade costs by an average of 14.3 per cent, with developing and least-developed countries having the most to gain, according to a 2015 study carried out by WTO economists. The TFA is also likely to reduce the time needed to import goods by over a day and a half and to export goods by almost two days, representing a reduction of 47 per cent and 91 per cent respectively over the current average.
As of 12 February, the current rate of implemented commitments under the TFA stood at 61.3 per cent. Broken down by level of development, this equates to a 100 per cent rate of implementation by developed members, 60.3 per cent among developing members and 22.8 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.
Several members remarked positively on the progress made while some noted that much remains to be done to fully implement the Agreement across the entire WTO membership. They called for the timely fulfilment of obligations to implement the TFA, with some noting that 2019 would be an important year with the deadline coming up for LDCs to report on what technical assistance they require and for developing members to notify definitive dates when they would implement provisions of the Agreement for which they had asked assistance.
The Committee reviewed a total of 16 new notifications from members on their respective timetables to implement TFA provisions and other information such as trading procedures and assistance for carrying out the Agreement. Members heard presentations on special procedures for processing and temporarily admitting goods for special circumstances, National Trade Facilitation Committees, and advance Customs rulings for traders who may want clarity on their transactions before the goods are shipped. Members also continued to debate a proposal on formalizing the Committee’s rules of procedure and heard updates on recent and upcoming activities aimed at enhancing TFA implementation.
The Committee on Customs Valuations held a workshop the next day, 14 February, on linkages between customs valuation and the TFA, which provided opportunities for members and other organizations to share experiences on a national and regional level.
The next Trade Facilitation Committee meeting will be in June.