The WTO trade facilitation agreement…and beyondIn December 2013, WTO members concluded the negotiations of the Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA) at the 9th Ministerial Conference in Bali. Upon entry into force, the TFA creates binding obligations for WTO members to improve their customs procedures by making them more transparent and efficient in cooperation with border regulatory agencies and private sector. The Agreement also contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building to support its implementation in developing and least developed countries. The developing and least developed members shall self-designate, on individual basis, each provision of the TFA into Category A (implementation upon entry into force), B (deferred implementation) or C (linked with acquisition of capacity through assistance and support) along with the proposed implementation date.Trade Facilitation, however, goes beyond the scope of the WTO TFA as it encompasses all other activities related to the optimisation of cross-border management and improvement of national supply chains. Such activities include, but are not limited to:
Seizing the opportunity of the trade facilitation agreementThe WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) has a key role to play in helping developing and least developed countries to reduce their trade costs linked to handling imports and exports. Many of the rules in the TFA are designed to be beneficial to businesses, especially SMEs. However, concerns remain in developing and least developed countries about whether they have the resources and expertise to implement many of these rules and procedures, for which they will need technical and financial assistance from the international community.Translating opportunities: How to use the TFA to increase exports The TFA includes commitments related to the publication and transparency of trade regulations and customs procedures. To assist least developed countries in meeting these commitments, ITC will provide trainings and assistance in creating user-friendly communication materials online and in print and educate SMEs about the new rules and their benefits.ITC already provides training for government officials on what information needs to be made available to the business community and on how to deal with technical and legal issues, such as confidential information. It will also facilitate dialogue between the public and private sectors, to provide SMEs with the opportunity to explain what information they need to facilitate exports and in what form. ITC also monitors the implementation of laws and related practices and procedures at the border through public-private committees, which would address appropriate remedial measures and would prepare targeted business guides on rules and procedures that affect importers and exporters in developing countries.
Complying with TFA Short Term RequirementsITC supports countries in the categorization and notification of TFA provisions as well as in estimating the financial and technical resources required to implement their category C commitments. ITC will build on its NTM studies to provide insights on the key barriers to trade and the most relevant TFA measures to boost national exports. Finally, ITC will assist countries in reaching out to donors to support their national trade facilitation initiatives.
Building National Capacities for TFA Implementation In order to help implement TFA, ITC builds capacities on a national level by:
Ghana: Customs reform and modernizationITC facilitates Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) to establish systems for the efficient crossing of borders aimed at increasing the competitiveness of traders, for example through the establishment of single window systems. ITC’s role has been to bring the private sector and public stakeholders to partner together into concrete cross-sectorial solutions in trade facilitation which are appropriate for the relevant countries. ITC has developed case studies to raise awareness on innovative and successful PPP schemes relating to trade facilitation, such as the Ghanaian custom reforms example. The Ghanaian Government decided to use a Public-Private partnership to modernize its customs operations. This meant the government did not have to solely support the project on its own, which included the total cost of US$ 12 million for physical infrastructure work, establishing communication networks, upgrading customs facilities, and placing electric generators in remote border stations. The partnership is based on a private share of 65% (60% contributed by SGS, a Swiss inspection company, 5% by Ecobank Ghana and a public share of 35% (20% from Ghana Customs, 10% from Ghana Shippers’ Council and 5% from Ghana Commercial Bank). The partnership relies on a custom’s management software that has been successfully used in other countries, such as Singapore. Results:
ITC prepares partner countries to implement the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and supports national initiatives to reform trade regulatory frameworks and to optimise trade agencies processes in line with the obligations ensuing from the TFA. By helping countries remove their supply chain barriers due to burdensome administrative requirements, ITC contributes to reduce cost and delays of cross-border operations and improve private sector competitiveness. After assisting countries in the preparation of the implementation (e.g. TFA provision categorization, TACB projects design…) they will be better prepared for the implementation of TFA provisions.As a first step towards implementation, ITC will develop in beneficiary countries a bankable project plan and an implementation roadmap for each of the TFA priority measure, for instance: Advance Ruling Systems, Authorized Economic Operators and Post Clearance Audit, National Enquiry Points, among others. Subsequently, ITC will assist countries to estimate the costs and resources required for implementation of prioritized TFA measures and to approach donors to raise funds to mobilize technical assistance.Additionally, ITC is developing a series of training modules for implementing the measures of the TFA as well as for approaching donors for support. These include, but are not limited to: ITC with national expertise will implement measures such as, but not limited to:
Example: Implementing the transparency measures of the TFA
ITC published a guide on the Bali package.