Laos and New Zealand Accept Trade Facilitation Agreement
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic became the eighteenth World Trade Organization member to formally accept the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
Khemmani Pholsena, Minister of Industry and Commerce, submitted Lao PDR’s instrument of acceptance of the TFA to WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo on September 29. On the same say, Ambassador Vangelis Vitalis submitted New Zealand’s instrument of acceptance of the TFA to Azevêdo.
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, as well as provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.
In their meeting, Azevêdo and Pholsena highlighted the importance of the TFA in reducing trade costs. Laos is the second least developed country (LDC) to ratify the TFA. Its acceptance is significant given the country’s status as a landlocked LDC.
The TFA will enter into force once two-thirds of the WTO membership has formally accepted the Agreement. In addition to Laos and New Zealand, 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, and Liechtenstein.
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. In addition, 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.