National Committees on Trade Facilitation

What are National Committees on Trade Facilitation (NCTFs)?


National Committees on Trade Facilitation (NCTFs), also sometimes referred to as National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs), are government bodies or mechanisms tasked with the responsibility to facilitate both domestic coordination and implementation of the provisions included in the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). The TFA entered into force on February 2017. Since then, the agreement has been representing a framework for WTO members to facilitate the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. TFA’s article 23.2 frames the overall mandate of NCTFs.


What are the key objectives of NCTFs?


While the overall mandate of NCTFs has been framed under TFA’s article 23.2, these committees have been existent across countries to oversee the implementation of trade facilitation reforms enacted since the 1960s. NCTFs across TFA parties share the function of coordinating stakeholders playing a role in implementing the TFA provisions. However, their scope and frequency of work may differ according to political, management and leadership conditions in which they operate. Some of the activities reported by NCTFs include: advising government and making recommendations; collecting and disseminating information on trade facilitation and awareness raising; monitoring technical assistance projects and programmes; negotiating, promoting and monitoring new trade facilitation agreements; and organizing training sessions and capacity building among others.


Why do NTFCs matter for MSMEs?


The World Customs Organization (WCO)’s Guidance for National Committees on Trade Facilitation stresses that including micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) among the committee stakeholders is part of the preconditions for implementing a successful and effective NCTF. As many of the TFA provisions affect the ability of MSMEs to benefit from simplified trade, transit and customs procedures, enabling MSMEs to have representation in NCTFs is vital for ensuring a full compliance with TFA’s article 23.2 and other related articles, such as article 2. The latter emphasizes that all stakeholders affected by customs concerns should be consulted for trade regulatory developments.

What can policymakers do?


MSMEs lag behind larger firms in skills, knowledge and access to information, resources and contact to have their voice heard and participate in trade-related policymaking processes. Policymakers can play a role in making the case and creating space for MSMEs to channel their trade-related concerns through NCTFs. The International Trade Centre (ITC)’s Toolkit for Policymakers for Supporting SMEs through Trade Facilitation Reforms outlines key actions policymakers can take to support MSME inclusion in NCTFs including: Developing a communications plan for NCTFs to consult with MSMEs well before trade-related policies and procedures are developed or changed; assessing SME needs and concerns through various information channels; ensuring MSME participation in consultations and feedback; and reviewing MSME impacts of trade policies and procedures.


Where can policymakers access more resources?

  • ITC-UNESCAP-UNNExT’s Making the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Work for SMEs: The International Trade Centre (ITC), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for East Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), and the United Nations Network of Experts on Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific (UNNExT) have compiled programmes, measures and interventions that can support the involvement of MSMEs in NCTFs. Visit this ITC-UNESCAP-UNEExT report.
  • UNCTAD’s Resources for National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs): The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) offers resources for policymakers to connect NTFCs with networks, learning platforms and informational tools. Visit this UNCTAD’s website.
    • UNCTAD’s Database of NTFCs: Collects information metrics to assess the performance of NTFCs individually and globally. Visit this UNCTAD database.
    • UNCTAD’s e-Learning for NTFCs: Assists policymakers in understanding key concepts, frameworks and analytical tools on trade facilitation matters. Visit this UNCTAD website.
    • UNCTAD’s Sustainability Score for NTFCs: Assesses the probability of NTFCs to be sustainable over time by analysing several factors, such as scope of work, official set up and membership. Visit this UNCTAD webpage.
    • UNTAD’s Empowerment Programme for NTFCs: Provides capacity building for NTFCs to undertake their mandate and implement trade facilitation reforms that are aligned to the WTO TFA provisions. Visit this UNCTAD webpage.
    • UNCTAD’s Reform Tracker for NTFCs: Is a project management tool for supporting NTFC stakeholders to monitor progress of trade facilitation reforms and to facilitate coordination matters. Visit this UNCTAD Tracker.
  • WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement Database: The World Trade Organization (WTO) manages a database that monitors the progress made by WTO members in implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. Visit this WTO database.


Where can policymakers access good practices or national examples?

  • UNCTAD’s Map on Trade Facilitation Bodies: The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) provides a map with country-level information on NTFCs that have been established up to date and provides key features that characterizes them. Visit this UNCTAD Map.
  • Presentations delivered at the First UNCTAD International Forum for NTFCs: UNCTAD organizes an international forum where country representatives can present on experiences on establishing NTFCs. Visit this UNCTAD website.
  • WTO’s Current Practices and Challenges on NCTFs: The World Trade Organization (WTO) has compiled national experiences, best practices and recommendations with respect to the establishment and functioning of NCTFs. Visit this WTO report.

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