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WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Nears Implementation

Friday, July 29, 2016
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

Mexico became the 87th member of the World Trade Organization to ratify the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement July 26, the latest step toward the 109 (two-thirds of WTO membership) that must formally accept the TFA before it enters into force. Other notable WTO members that have already ratified the TFA include the U.S., Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Taiwan, China, the European Union, Turkey, Brazil, Russia and India.

The TFA aims to standardize, streamline and accelerate customs processes around the world, thus helping to expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods. Specific disciplines in the TFA relate to the publication and availability of information, the opportunity to comment before entry into force of new and amended laws and regulations, advance rulings, procedures for appeal, non-discrimination and transparency, fees and charges, the release and clearance of goods, border agency cooperation, the movement of goods, import/export/transit formalities, freedom of transit and customs cooperation.

The WTO has reported that full implementation of the TFA could reduce WTO members’ trade costs by an average of 14.3 percent, including 18 percent for manufactured goods and 10.4 percent for agricultural products. Goods exports could rise by up to $1 trillion per year, including $730 billion for developing economies alone, resulting in the creation of between 20 and 30 million new jobs. Perishable agricultural goods and intermediate manufactured goods are likely to see the biggest boost.

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo has said that the majority of TFA benefits will accrue to developing and least-developed countries. These include economic diversification, with the number of new products exported increasing by as much as 20 percent for developing countries and 35 percent for LDCs; access to new markets, which could increase by 30 percent for developing countries and 60 percent or more for LDCs; and improvements in trade facilitation structures, which may help these countries improve their participation in global value chains, attract more foreign direct investment, reduce the scope for corruption and increase the amount of revenues collected. These members will have the flexibility to tailor their commitments and implementation schedules according to their specific needs and capacities, and a Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility has been created to help ensure that they receive the assistance needed to reap the full benefits of the TFA.

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