WTO Trade Facilitation Committee: WCO stands ready to coordinate with the WTO on collection of COVID-19 practices

03 February 2021

The WCO took part in the WTO Trade Facilitation Committee (TFC) meeting held virtually on 26 and 27 January 2021. The discussions focused mainly on the response to the COVID-19 and how the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) can help mitigate its effects.

At the center of the discussions was a proposal from the European Union calling on the WTO Secretariat to prepare a compendium document containing the contributions of COVID-19 responses that Members and Observers, including the WCO, have provided to the TFC. The compendium would help identify key difficulties and challenges members and businesses have encountered when importing or exporting goods during the crisis as well as particular reforms and changes members and businesses have made in response. More information on the TFC meeting outcomes is available on the WTO web site.

The WCO was invited to provide an update on its extensive work in collecting, analyzing and sharing information on Members’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. As already reported to the informal TFC Meeting on 30 September 2020, the WCO reiterated the availability of the repository of 115 Members’ practices on the dedicated section of the WCO public web-site, as well as the Secretariat Note on What Customs can do to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, developed after analyzing the submitted practices. The information is also available in the COVID-19 TF Repository hosted by the WTO TFA Facility.

The WCO used this opportunity to invite the Members to the meeting of the WCO Working Group on the WTO TFA (TFAWG) to be held virtually on 8-9 March 2021, where one of the meeting documents outlines the TFA articles and the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC) provisions that can support the implementation of the measures to facilitate the cross-border movement of relief and essential supplies.

Furthermore, the TFC was informed about the COVID-19 project funded by the Government of Japan, under which the WCO is developing Guidelines on disaster management and supply chain continuity. The WCO offered to share with the WTO Secretariat and Members the latest version of the Guidelines, once available. The project team is currently delivering a series of regional workshops to further collect Members’ practices and discuss the draft Guidelines with the WCO Members.

The delegates also heard about the WCO Council Resolution on the role of Customs in facilitating the cross-border movement of situationally critical medicines and vaccines, issued in December 2020 and about the collection of Members’ practices in facilitating the cross-border movement of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Finally, the WCO expressed its readiness to cooperate with the WTO Secretariat and, if necessary, deliver a more detailed presentation at a future meeting of the TFC.

The full WCO intervention is available on the TFA Database web site.