On May 2-3, the Committee on Trade Facilitation gathered to discuss the steps necessary towards the full implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) The meeting involved a dedicated session on technical assistance and support for capacity building. The meeting culminated with the election of Ambassador Dalia Kadišienė (Lithuania) as the new Committee chair.
The Committee reviewed a total of 63 new notifications from members of 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 technical assistance and support for capacity building. During this exchange, the United States and the European Union commended several members for their ambitious implementation timetables. A few members were reminded to submit outstanding notifications. The United States, the European Union, Canada and China further suggested that members include more stocktaking discussions on the progress of TFA implementation in future Committee meetings.
Ambassador Daniel Blockert (Sweden), the outgoing chair of the Committee, said the large number of notifications from members was highly encouraging. The Secretariat, in its update to members at the meeting, further noted that a total of 136 members have completed their ratification process related to the Agreement, which is equivalent to 83 per cent of the WTO membership. Since the last Committee meeting, 14 more members have submitted their instruments of acceptance of the TFA: Antigua and Barbuda, South Africa, Indonesia, Israel, Central African Republic, Argentina, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Barbados, Namibia, Djibouti, Papua New Guinea, Cuba, Benin and the State of Kuwait. Several more are in the advanced stages of preparation.
A look at the overall situation shows a steady increase in commitment levels. According to the TFA Database, the current implementation rate of the Agreement stands at 59.7 per cent as of 2 May. Broken down by level of development, this equates to a 100 per cent implementation rate by developed members, 58 per cent among developing members and 21.2 per cent among least developed countries (LDCs).
The Agreement is unique in that it allows developing and least-developed countries to set their own timetables for implementing the TFA, communicated in a series of notifications that reflect their respective capacities. Developed countries committed to immediately implement the entire Agreement when it entered into force.
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, 112 members have notified their category A commitments, approaching the overall number of notifications in this area that is likely to be received. The current number of category B commitments stands at 62 and at 52 for category C. Ambassador Blockert said that among all members who have ratified the Agreement and for whom the TFA has taken effect, only four have not yet provided any notification – all of them LDCs.
The Committee meeting also featured an experience-sharing segment that focused on the themes of National Trade Facilitation Committees, transit, and broader implementation issues. Members compared notes on successful strategies and national issues and regional initiatives relating to the resolution of implementation challenges.
A dedicated session on technical assistance was held the next day on pertinent issues related to implementation support. Donor members presented their initiatives, often followed by corresponding interventions from recipients of their aid. The World Bank, UN Conference on Trade and Development, World Customs Organization and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development also participated in the session to provide information on technical assistance as did the Secretariat to share updates on activities of the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility.
At the end of the session, members elected Ambassador Dalia Kadišienė (Lithuania) as their new Committee chair.