Topics handled by WTO committees and agreements
Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

Trade facilitation

In December 2013, WTO members concluded negotiations on a Trade Facilitation Agreement at the Bali Ministerial Conference, as part of a wider “Bali Package”. Since then, WTO members have undertaken a legal review of the text. The resulting final text is available here. In line with the decision adopted in Bali, WTO members adopted on 27 November 2014 a Protocol of Amendment to insert the new Agreement into Annex 1A of the WTO Agreement. The Trade Facilitation Agreement will enter into force once two-thirds of members have completed their domestic ratification process.

The Trade Facilitation Agreement contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.

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On this page:
I. Background
II. Current status of work
III. Trade Facilitation Agreement
IV. Protocol of Amendment
V. Notifications
VI. Technical assistance and capacity building
VII. Events
VIII. Resources


News  back to top

 

I. Background back to top

Background – early years, from Singapore to Doha

> Negotiating an agreement on trade facilitation

 

II. Current status of work  back to top

Following the dissolution of the Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation after the conclusion of the negotiations in December 2013, work on trade facilitation primarily takes place in the Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation. The Committee, which is open to all WTO members, is mandated under the Bali Ministerial Decision to “perform such functions as may be necessary to ensure the expeditious entry into force of the Agreement and to prepare for the efficient operation of the Agreement upon its entry into force.” The decision tasks the Committee to:

    (i) conduct a legal review of the Trade Facilitation Agreement

     (ii) receive notifications from members on the commitments they can undertake immediately (Category A commitments )

    (iii) draw up a Protocol of Amendment to insert the Agreement into Annex 1A of the WTO Agreement.

The General Council was mandated to meet no later than 31 July 2014 to:

  • adopt the Protocol drawn up by the Committee,
  • open the Protocol for acceptance until 31 July 2015
  • annex to the Agreement notifications of Category A commitments.

Ministers decided that the Protocol would enter into force after two-thirds of the WTO’s membership have completed their domestic ratification process.

The legal review was completed by members in July 2014. Delegations have begun to submit their Category A notifications (see here). Work on the Protocol started but the WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo reported to the membership on 31 July that members were unable to reach consensus on the adoption of the Protocol. After intensive consultations, members reached an agreement on the Protocol text which was adopted on 27 November 2014. The agreement does not fix a deadline date for acceptance of the Protocol.

 

III. Trade Facilitation Agreement  back to top

The Trade Facilitation Agreement has three sections:

  • Section I contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It clarifies and improves the relevant articles (V, VIII and X) of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994. It also sets out provisions for customs cooperation.
  • Section II contains special and differential treatment (SDT) provisions that allow developing and least-developed countries (LDCs) to determine when they will implement individual provisions of the Agreement and to identify provisions that they will only be able to implement upon the receipt of technical assistance and support for capacity building.
  • To benefit from SDT, a member must categorize each provision of the Agreement, as defined below, and notify other WTO members of these categorizations in accordance with specific timelines outlined in the Agreement (see below).
  • Category A: provisions that the member will implement by the time the Agreement enters into force (or in the case of a least-developed country member within one year after entry into force)  
  • Category B: provisions that the member will implement after a transitional period following the  entry into force of the Agreement 
  • Category C: provisions that the member will implement on a date after a transitional period following  the entry into force of the Agreement and requiring the acquisition of assistance and support for capacity building.
  • Section III contains provisions that establish a permanent committee on trade facilitation at the WTO, require members to have a national committee to facilitate domestic coordination and implementation of the provisions of the Agreement. It also sets out a few final provisions.

 

IV. Protocol of Amendment  back to top

WTO members adopted on 27 November 2014 a Protocol of Amendment to insert the new Agreement into Annex 1A of the WTO Agreement. The Trade Facilitation Agreement will enter into force once two-thirds of members have completed their domestic ratification process.

 

V. Notifications  back to top

  • Notifications of Category A commitments (Document code WT/PCTF/N/*) 
        > search

 

VI. Technical assistance and capacity building  back to top

Technical assistance for trade facilitation is provided by the WTO, WTO members and other intergovernmental organizations, including the World Bank, the World Customs Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In July 2014, the WTO announced the launch of the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility, which will assist developing and least-developed countries in implementing the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement. The Facility became operational with the adoption of the Trade Facilitation Protocol.

 

VII. Events  back to top

  • Trade Facilitation Conference for African Countries, Nairobi, Kenya
    Symposium (13-15 November 2012)
    > Agenda with presentations

WTO Symposia on practical experience of implementing trade facilitation reforms, including their costs and benefits:

 

VIII. Resources  back to top

WTO resources

Factsheets

Working Papers

Briefing Note

 

Other resources

 

Search Documents Online
Documents on Trade Facilitation bear the document code TN/TF/* for documents under the Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation, G/C/W/* and G/L/* for documents under the Council for Trade in Goods (where * takes additional values).
These links open a new window: allow a moment for the results to appear.

help with downloading these documents

  • Minutes of the meetings of the Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation and of the Preparatory Committee (searches for document code TN/TF/M/* and WT/PCTF/M/*)    > search
  • Working documents on Trade Facilitation (Document code TN/TF/W/*, G/C/W/* or WT/PCTF/W/* and keyword “Trade Facilitation”)
        > search
  • Working documents on Technical Assistance on Trade Facilitation (Document code TN/TF/W/* or G/C/W/* and keyword “Technical Assistance”)     > search
  • Needs Assessment Guide (searches for document code TN/TF/W/143/*)    > search
      

You can perform more sophisticated searches from the Documents Online search facility by defining multiple search criteria such as document symbol (i.e. code number), notification number, requirement subject, trade coverage, full text search or document date.

  

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