Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Azevêdo launches new WTO Facility to deliver support to LDCs and developing countries


Azevêdo launches new WTO Facility to deliver support to LDCs and developing countries

Azevêdo launches new WTO Facility to deliver support to LDCs and developing countries
Photo credit: WTO

International organizations pledge their support for implementing Trade Facilitation Agreement

A new initiative unveiled at the WTO on 22 July 2014 will help developing countries and least-developed countries reap the benefits of the WTO’s new Trade Facilitation Agreement, which was agreed at the Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013.

The Trade Facilitation Agreement broke new ground for developing and least-developed countries in the way it will be implemented. For the first time in WTO history, the requirement to implement the Agreement was directly linked to the capacity of the country to do so. In addition, the Agreement stated that assistance and support should be provided to help them achieve that capacity.

The aim of this new initiative, entitled the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF), is to help ensure that this assistance is provided to all those that require it.

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo joined the coordinators of the African, LDC and African, Caribbean and Pacific Groups to announce the creation of the TFAF at the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva.

Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said:

“I am delighted to launch the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility. With this new Facility, developing and least-developed countries can be sure that they will receive the support they need to make the reforms enshrined in the Trade Facilitation Agreement and share in the substantial economic gains that it will deliver. I am encouraged by the way this initiative has been received, including by donors, some of whom have already indicated their support or will soon be in a position to do so.

“This is an important day at the WTO. With this initiative we are sending the message again that development is at the heart of our work. It is important now that Members implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement so that developing countries can receive this technical assistance and so that we can move ahead with the other elements of the Bali package and negotiations on the Doha Development Agenda.”

The new Facility will complement existing efforts by regional and multilateral agencies, bilateral donors, and other stakeholders to provide Trade Facilitation-related technical assistance and capacity-building support. It will act as a focal point for implementation efforts. It will become operational when the protocol to insert the Trade Facilitation Agreement into the existing regulatory framework is adopted by WTO Members. The functions of the Facility will include:

  • supporting LDCs and developing countries to assess their specific needs and identify possible development partners to help them meet those needs

  • ensuring the best possible conditions for the flow of information between donors and recipients through the creation of an information sharing platform for demand and supply of Trade Facilitation-related technical assistance

  • disseminating best practice in implementation of Trade Facilitation measures

  • providing support to find sources of implementation assistance, including formally requesting the Director-General to act as a facilitator in securing funds for specific project implementation

  • providing grants for the preparation of projects in circumstances where a Member has identified a potential donor but has been unable to develop a project for that donor’s consideration, and is unable to find funding from other sources to support the preparation of a project proposal

  • providing project implementation grants related to the implementation of Trade Facilitation Agreement provisions in circumstances where attempts to attract funding from other sources have failed. These grants will be limited to “soft infrastructure” projects, such as modernization of customs laws through consulting services, in-country workshops, or training of officials. 

Separately, a group of major international organizations came together on 22 July to recognize the development potential of the Trade Facilitation Agreement and to offer their assistance to WTO members in implementing their commitments under the Agreement.

In a joint statement the organizations declared their intention to work together to assist developing and least-developed Members through a range of technical assistance and capacity-building initiatives.

The organizations declared:

“(T)his coordinated and integrated approach will greatly assist developing, transition and least-developed countries to reap real and sustainable benefits from the Agreement and will result in stronger economic development for their citizens.” 

The statement is signed by the following organizations:

  • International Trade Centre

  • Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

  • United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

  • United Nations Economic Commission for Europe on behalf of the UN Regional Commissions for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and Western Asia (ESCWA)

  • World Bank Group

  • World Customs Organization


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