Enquiry/Contact Points

What are enquiry points?

Enquiry/contact points are officials in government agencies designated to answer questions that actors involved in international trade may have about trade requirements, such as customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and technical barriers to trade (TBT) (see guide on sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade).  Authorities that are typically concerned about getting in contact with enquiry points include border agencies, trade authorities and businesses involved in international trade. For more information, see WTO’s Trade Facilitation Facility

Why do enquiry points matter for trade? 

Enquiry points aim to increase transparency in international trade. Timely information is critical for MSMEs to trade, and enquiry points can make it possible for individual traders, government authorities and any other interested person to obtain specific information on import, export or transit requirements. SPS and TBT enquiry points are also involved in sharing information on upcoming changes in product regulations, facilitating regulatory cooperation between members and reducing potential trade frictions. A study conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has documented the potential that establishing enquiry points have in streamlining trade and transit procedures. When countries adopt enquiry points by physical, telephone, or virtual means, users get assistance in their customs-related questions and procedures. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Trade Facilitation Technical Note No. 6 offers an overview of guidelines for implementing enquiry points and their relevance to international trade. Additionally, one of the recommendations given to the Informal Working Group on MSMEs from business associations included establishing national SME contact points.

Where can I find enquiry points? 

An updated list of WTO Member’s SPS and TBT enquiry points can be consulted on the ePing website. In addition, interested stakeholders can register on ePing to receive email alerts on changes to regulatory requirements notified by WTO member governments. These alerts also provide information on who to contact for further enquiries, both domestically and in export markets.

Where can I access resources on policy guidelines and frameworks?

  • The World Customs Organization (WCO) – Kyoto Convention General Annex Guidelines – Chapter 7 (Application of Information Technology): Section 5.8 of this report provides guidelines on setting up custom help desks. Visit this WCO resourcet.
  • WCO – Kyoto Convention General Annex Guidelines – Chapter 9 (Information, Decisions, and Rulings Supplied by Customs): This section of the same report outlines a set of standards that customs authorities can adopt to deliver information on customs matters needed by stakeholders involved in trade and transit transactions. Visit this WCO resource
  • WCO’s Transparency and Predictability Guidelines: This resource comprises standards and guidance for enabling small businesses to join international markets and contribute to trade facilitation and economic growth. Visit this WCO resource.
  • WTO TBT Enquiry Point guide: Provides detailed information and points to good practices on the range of tasks and services that a TBT Enquiry Point is expected to perform. Visit this WTO resource.
  • WTO Practical Manual for SPS National Notification Authorities and SPS National Enquiry Points: Provides advice and guidance for governments to facilitate the implementation of transparency provisions of the SPS Agreements and understand the framework of SPS measures in trade. Visit this WTO resource.

Where can I access best practices and national examples?

  • Japan’s Customs Counselor System (CCS): Japan has customs counselors nationwide in the form of regional customs headquarters and customs branches that help facilitate customs management and provide information on trade procedures to concerned stakeholders. Learn more about the CCS.
  • United States’ Centers of Excellence and Expertise:  This consists of industry-specific centers that share knowledge in harmonizing practices across ports of entry and facilitating resolutions of trade compliance issues. Visit this resource.