WTO’s Azevêdo: Ratify Trade Facilitation Agreement
In a speech in Costa Rica last week, World Trade Organization Director General Roberto Azevêdo advocated for the early ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
The TFA is “the first multilateral agreement since the WTO was created,” he noted.
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.
The agreement also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and compliance issues. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.
The TFA “will substantially reduce trade costs, by delivering simpler, more predictable, and streamlined border procedures,” said Azevêdo.
“Studies suggest that the full implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement could reduce worldwide trade costs by between 12.5 percent and 17.5 percent,” he added. “It is estimated that it could bring a boost in trade worth up to one trillion dollars and create 21 million jobs, 18 million of which would be in developing countries.”
Besides its economic significance, the TFA has a number of innovative features, including its novel implementation architecture, according to Azevêdo.
“It allows for more flexible implementation by developing countries,” he said. “It also says that practical help must be provided, where needed, to developing countries.”
The WTO as set up the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility as a new initiative to ensure that developing countries get the help they need to develop projects, find partners, and access necessary funds.
Two thirds of WTO members must now ratify the agreement before it can enter into force. “Some have done so, but we need to increase the pace,” said Azevêdo. “I am very pleased to hear that Costa Rica will submit the agreement for legislative approval. I hope that others in the region will follow this lead and move forward with their ratification processes.”
Among regional players, Nicaragua ratified the FTA in early August. Twelve WTO members have ratified the accord thus far; 108 are required.
On the occasion of the WTO’s 20th anniversary, Azevêdo noted that The WTO’s system of rules and disciplines covers around 98 percent of global commerce.
“At a time when the global economy is more interconnected than ever,” he said, “I think it is difficult to imagine a world without the WTO and the multilateral trading system.”