Trade Facilitation

What is the Trade Facilitation Agreement?


From the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference and after almost ten years of subsequent negotiation, the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) emerged, recognizing the need for improvement in trade processes. Ratified at the beginning of 2017, the TFA is an important step to facilitate border procedures. Recent evidence from an ex-post analysis undertaken by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for East Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) suggests that implementation of the WTO TFA to date (as it is a gradual process in most developing economies) has contributed to reduce trade costs by 1-4% on average.


Why does the TFA matter for MSMEs?


Although the changes proposed by the TFA benefit all traders, smaller traders, with fewer resources, were identified as benefitting more. Section I of the agreement lists all the various areas and processes that should be aligned and modernized (see the guide on cross-border paperless trade), with changes focused principally on two areas, communication and border procedures.  The ITC has highlighted certain articles of the TFA as especially relevant for MSME trade. They include articles on trade procedure information dissemination to SMEs; authorized operators and criteria  that will not restrict SME participation (see Getting Down to Business or the guide on authorized economic operators); SME support for single windows (see guide on single windows and national portals); reduced fees and charges for SMEs and expedited shipments; and national committees on trade facilitation and SMEs (see guide on national committees on trade facilitation). For more details, see Making the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Work for SMEs.


Where can policymakers access more resources?


There are many resources for policymakers related to implementation of the TFA. Below are just a few, more can be found in the policymaker resource library.


Where can policymakers access good practices or national examples?

Businesses & Entrepreneurs

Find a concise overview of key aspects of international trade for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises with our Businesses & Entrepreneurs Guides.

Policymakers & Researchers

Find a concise overview of key aspects of trade and MSME-related policymaking with our dedicated library of Policymakers & Researchers Guides.