More than 200 delegates from Customs, trade and other ministries, the WTO and other international organisations, development partners, academia and business gathered at the 4th Meeting of the TFA Working Group (TFAWG) on 12/13 October 2015 in Brussels. All of those stakeholders involved in border management emphasized the importance of and their strong interest in successful implementation of the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA).
In his opening remarks, Mr. Gaozhang ZHU, Director, Compliance and Facilitation (WCO) said that the TFA created momentum for border and Customs modernisation and that he was confident that the TFAWG is able to deliver on related high expectations.
The delegates appreciated the ongoing successful cooperation between the WTO and the WCO. The representative of the WTO was able to report to the WTO Preparatory meeting on the 13th of October the strong focus of the WCO TFAWG on TFA implementation. The delegates to the TFAWG took note with interest of an update by the WTO Secretariat on the situation regarding TFA acceptances (49), notifications of Category A commitments (72) and the TFA Facility.
The WCO Secretariat provided an update on the activities carried out under the Mercator Programme, including regional awareness-raising/training workshops, expert accreditation workshops, assistance for establishing National Committees on Trade Facilitation (NCTFs) and the many other Technical Assistance and Capacity Building (TA/CB) activities on national level.
The TFAWG equally welcomed the WCO’s newly launched Guidance for NCTFs according to article 23.2 of the TFA, which had been developed to share good practices, experiences and guidance related to the establishment and maintenance of NCTFs. One of its practical annexes is among others providing Customs administrations in their cooperation with other stakeholders arguments in favor of an important role of Customs within the NCTF.
The Meeting also welcomed the new comprehensive Introduction to the TFA Implementation Guidance, which now provides a comprehensive general overview of the TFA and all aspects relevant for Customs, including information and guidance on key steps required for TFA implementation, based on the WCO Mercator Programme approach.
The Working Group further endorsed as a living document the newly developed WCO Transparency and Predictability Guidelines, and discussed further topics including Transit, Border Agency Cooperation, the outline of a WCO diagnostic tool for Coordinated Border Management as well as the Group's own Work Programme.
The agenda of the meeting was complemented by presentations on Members’ national and regional practices (presentations were made by the East African Community, Georgia, Iceland, Mexico, Norway, Sudan and Vietnam), as well as on private sector experience (including a presentation by Microsoft).
Regarding ongoing successful cooperation of the WCO with development partners in support of the Mercator Programme, the Working Group welcomed the presentation by the United Kingdom on their support for the Mercator Programme, and emphasized the significant role the WCO should play in the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation presented by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
Delegates warmly thanked the outgoing Chairperson of the TFAWG Ms. Gugu Treasure Dlamini-Zwane (Swaziland) for her excellent work during the past two years. The Meeting also congratulated the newly appointed Chairperson Mr. Carlos Enriquez (Mexico) and the newly elected Vice-Chairperson Ms. Ulrika Lyckman Alnered (Sweden) on their new tasks.