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WCO welcomes entry into force of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement

22 February 2017

The World Customs Organization (WCO) congratulates the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the entry into force today of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement; an agreement that will expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit, and which sets out measures for effective cooperation between Customs and other authorities, as well as provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area. The WCO takes this opportunity to highlight that it will continue to seek improvements throughout the global supply chain to obtain the highest levels of safety, security and integrity, which will enhance trade facilitation for compliant actors. This will ultimately have a positive effect on the relationship between all border agencies and the Private Sector.

The entry into force of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) is an important milestone for the international trade and Customs community, coming about as a result of the fact that it has been ratified by 110 WTO Members, which pushes it above the threshold needed to take effect, namely ratification by two-thirds of the WTO’s 164 Members.

Inevitably, the focus will now shift from the ratification process to the crucial implementation process. The TFA does indeed include extensive ‘special and differential treatment’ (S&D) provisions that will allow developing countries to tailor the scope and timing of implementation to their particular circumstances.

“The WCO has been, and will continue to be, fully committed to making the TFA a success in practical terms,” said WCO Secretary General Dr Kunio Mikuriya. “We will do this by helping our Member Customs administrations who have asked for support in implementing the Agreement’s trade facilitation measures, which will improve economic competitiveness, contribute to economic growth and alleviate poverty.”

In its efforts to assist WCO Members in implementing the TFA and ensure that they fully benefit from the trade facilitation promise the Agreement holds, the WCO launched the Mercator Programme, which brings together all relevant WCO instruments and tools such as the Revised Kyoto Convention on the simplification and harmonization of Customs procedures, globally acknowledged as an excellent TFA implementation instrument.

After the TFA was concluded in Bali, Indonesia, in 2013, the WCO established the Trade Facilitation Agreement Working Group (TFAWG) as a forum to discuss the harmonized implementation of the Agreement, to share national experiences, and to enhance the Members’ capabilities in facilitating international trade.

The TFAWG will next meet on 6 and 7 March 2017 and the timing could not be better, coming so close after the entry into force of the Agreement. On the second day, the TFAWG and the WCO Capacity Building Committee will meet in a joint session to discuss the delivery of technical assistance for TFA implementation.

All TFAWG Members, which include Customs administrations and other border agencies, as well as observers, private sector representatives and other relevant stakeholders, are invited to attend the meeting as it will be an ideal opportunity to discuss this new phase in global trade facilitation.