12th TFAWG: “WTO’s first-born agreement is now steady on its feet”

09 March 2020

The WCO Trade Facilitation Agreement Working Group (TFAWG) met for the 12th time on 4 and 5 March 2020 in Brussels at the WCO’s Headquarters. The meeting included a Joint Session with the Capacity Building Committee (CBC). Delegates, representing Customs, other Border Agencies and Trade Ministries from WCO Members, Observers from several International Organizations, the Private Sector and Academia participated in the event. The Meeting was chaired by Mr. L. Satya Srinivas (India).

In his opening speech, the Secretary General of the WCO Dr. Kunio MIKURIYA introduced the WCO’s theme for 2020: Customs fostering Sustainability for People, Prosperity and the Planet. Referring to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, he underlined the important role of Customs in achieving these goals.

Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the WTO H.E. Ambassador Mohammad Qurban HAQJO, who is also the Chairperson of the WTO Trade Facilitation Committee (TFC), addressed developments taking place in the WTO TFC, how they relate to the WCO and presented certain statistics, underlining that the WTO’s first-born agreement was now “steady on its feet”. The Ambassador underlined the importance of the complementary and mutually beneficial relationship between the WCO and WTO and also thanked the WCO for its valuable contribution to WTO’s work on the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

The Joint Session was also addressed by Mr. Philiso Phodiso VALASHIA, WCO Vice-Chair for the ESA Region, Commissioner of Customs and Excise, Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS), addressed the various challenges organizations like Customs face nowadays as they are increasingly engaged in multiple simultaneous changes and have a key role in government strategies and policies to foster sustainability for prosperity, which contributes to national and global development.

The WTO Secretariat provided an overview of the latest developments and shared the relevant sources of information regarding ratifications, notifications and Members’ individual profiles, available on the WTO TFA Facility and TFA Database web sites.

The Joint Session was updated on the developments under the Mercator Programme, the WCO’s flagship Capacity Building Programme supporting WCO Members in implementing trade facilitation measures to enhance their economic competitiveness. Furthermore, the meeting was briefed on the latest initiatives in the area of the Time Release Study (TRS), Post Clearance Audit (PCA) and Transit.

The Joint Session also had an opportunity to hear about the Study Report on Single Window as well as to observe a demonstration of a WCO platform hosting Reform and Modernization – Monitoring Activities and Projects (RAM_MAP) and Single Window Interactive Map (SWIM).

On the second day of the meeting, the TFAWG discussed Customs Cooperation, account-based management, as well as separation of release from final determination of Customs duties, taxes, fees and charges.  The TFAWG also agreed on the Work Programme and Annual Work Plan 2020/2021 that provides direction to its future activities.

Finally, the TFAWG elected Ms. Ira Tan (the Netherlands) as Chairperson and Mr. Ibrahim Alfa Adamu (Nigeria) as Vice-Chairperson for the upcoming two-year period.

The next meeting of the TFAWG will be held in spring 2021.