Mission Report June 2007

21 September 2007

Mission report

(Mission to the WTO TFNG meeting of 7 and 8 June and related meetings)

13 June 2007

Ray McDonagh

The Secretariat was invited to the WTO Trade Facilitation Negotiating Group (TFNG) meeting of 7 and 8 June 2007, in Geneva. The agenda was adopted as circulated in advance. There were no requests to add additional items. The points of discussion which might be the interest of the WCO were as follows:

S&D: One proponent WTO member reported on an informal exchange of views among interested WTO members that had taken place in Evian, Switzerland on 29 May, 2007. There were several interventions at the TFNG which were taken into account by the general nature of his statement. Basically, all options remain on the table.

New written contribution:

A revised version of previous document on national websites and Enquiry points (TN/TF/W/132/Rev.1) was introduced by the proponent WTO member. Although welcomed by the many speakers the contents were queried by all speakers. Queries to the national website part included: if there could only be one national website; what about issues of regional interest only; would it be allowed to use links to other agencies; what are "cases where publication in advance may distort market conditions". In addition to these questions of general nature, there were specific questions. With respect to the proposed enquiry points, several WTO members argued that: it might not be possible or cost effective to always use one of the official languages of the WTO; consideration should be given to local requirements as very often it was only local business that needed information. With respect to the subject issues of the enquiry points, there was a suggestion that there would be a need for a definition of "trade-related legislation" as the potential scope was too wide. The requirement that international Organizations submit inquiries via the WTO was also raised and would be removed from subsequent drafts. Attempts to introduce time frames for response were resisted. The proponent WTO member would present a revised draft taking into account the comments made.

Another proposal on Internet publications (TN/TF/W/145) was also reviewed and queries were raised as to the definition of "full and precise", 'customs procedures" and "keep current". The scope of first paragraph of this proposal which was confined to Customs in the draft was also queried: why not all border agencies; if all forms are made available as required then should they be available for download and electronic submission. The proponent WTO member stated that it would reflect them for the next meeting.

A proposal on Expedited shipments (TN/TF/W/144) attracted many interests and questions. Several speakers did wish to see sectoral specific provisions introduced which, many wondered if they would be contra the provisions of a trade facilitation agreement. Queries were raised on almost every paragraph of the proposal. The proponent WTO member would re-examine the proposal. I did point out to the delegate of the proponent WTO member the WCO Immediate Release Guidelines which are sector neutral and address the issues raised by other delegations.

Proposals already on the table:

Regarding proposals already on the table there was no progress. The issue of most concern was an intervention from one WTO member delegate in which it was suggested that there should be discussion on risk management, pre-arrival processing, separation of release from clearance and post clearance audits and consideration given to making their use available to AEO's only. This would have serious consequences for Customs and could hardly be described as trade facilitation.

Next meeting:

The next meeting will take place from 16 to 20 July in a determined attempt to make progress on drafting legal texts. The WCO was invited to all the sessions.