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.
- ITC not only provides research and capacity building information on their dedicated webpage to the trade facilitation programme, they also offer a policymaker e-learning course on the WTO trade facilitation agreement and training manual on SMEs and the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.
- OECD trade facilitation page contains useful links to research, video explanations and tools with information on implementation of the agreement and related challenges.
- World Customs Organization (WCO) resources on trade facilitation include a guide on national committees on trade facilitation and information sheets on specific topics such as advance rulings, appeals in customs matters, single window, risk management/post clearance control and simplified procedure/authorized persons, all of which are accessible here. The WCO also has produced many guides and handbooks related to trade facilitation available through the WCO Tools.
- World Trade Organization (WTO) resources include the trade facilitation webpage, which contains information on the agreement itself as well as links to videos and publications. Additional resources linked on the page include:
- The dedicated website of the Trade facilitation Agreement Facility which includes information on the agreement itself, resources and case studies for each TFA provision, numerous general resources such from the WTO’s TFA Facility webpage, as well as links to e-learning courses for policymakers provided by the WTO, IDB, ITC, UNESCAP and others.
- The trade facilitation agreement database with charts on the state of play of the TFA and the status of the implementation of commitments by WTO Members.
Where can policymakers access good practices or national examples?
- ITC, UNCECE and UNCTAD guide titled Getting Down to Business, Making the Most of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement includes information on best practices and other useful information on implementation.
- OECD trade facilitation indicators simulator and compare your country tool provide governments with a basis to prioritize trade facilitation actions and to identify strengths and weaknesses in trade facilitation.
- UNCTAD similarly offers a Reform Tracker for monitoring of trade facilitation reforms.