European Council Ratifies WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement - Global Trade Magazine
  October 9th, 2015 | Written by

European Council Ratifies WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement

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  • TFA will enter into force once two-thirds of the WTO membership has formally accepted the agreement.
  • WTO Director General Azevêdo said EU ratification gives a big boost to bringing the agreement into force.
  • The EU is the 20th WTO member to have ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

The European Council has adopted a decision approving, on behalf of the European Union, the conclusion of the protocol establishing the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

The TFA will enter into force once two-thirds of the World Trade Organization membership has formally accepted the agreement. The EU is the twentieth WTO member out of a total of 161 to have ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo earlier this week welcomed the news. He said the EU ratification gives a big boost to efforts aimed at bringing the agreement into force.

“I am delighted that the European Union has completed its ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement protocol,” said Azevêdo. He added that he hoped WTO members would build on this momentum to have as many TFA acceptances as possible by the organization’s Nairobi Ministerial Conference in mid-December.

Concluded at the WTO’s 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference, the TFA 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 and contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.

In addition to the EU, the following WTO members have accepted the agreement: Hong Kong China, Singapore, the United States, Mauritius, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, Botswana, Trinidad and Tobago, the Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, Niger, Belize, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, China, Liechtenstein, Laos, and New Zealand.

The TFA 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. The agreement states that assistance and support should be provided to help them achieve that capacity.

A Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF) was also created at the request of developing and least-developed country members to help ensure that they receive the assistance needed to reap the full benefits of the TFA and to support the ultimate goal of full implementation of the new agreement by all members.