• Approaching the full implementation of the World Trade Facilitation Agreement cuts costs by 14.3%




    *Majid Al-Gemayel from Geneva



    Over the past two days, the members of the WTO had done an assessment of the progress made in the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, a week before the second anniversary of the entry into force of the Agreement.

    Members called to fully meet the commitments made to the Organization in a timely manner and to discuss efforts to assist each other in the implementation of the Agreement.

    Members considered a report from the WTO secretariat, which concluded that 141 or 86 per cent of the Members of the Organization had now ratified it and signed the Trade Facilitation Agreement almost two years after its entry into force on 22 February 2017, when the Organization exceeded the required threshold of 110 members.


    Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Ecuador have been the last to ratify the agreement since the last meeting of the Trade Facilitation Committee in October 2018.

    "We will soon ratify the agreement," Egypt said at the meeting.

    Saudi Arabia joined the agreement at the end of July 2016, as it is becoming the second Arab country after the UAE to ratify the trade facilitation agreement.


    It is expected that the full implementation of the Agreement, which seeks to accelerate the movement, release and clearance of goods across borders of the trade costs of members at a rate of 14.3 per cent with developing and least developed countries receiving the greatest gains, according to a study by economists at the World Trade Organization in 2015.

    It is also likely that the agreement will reduce the time required to import goods for more than a day and a half and to export goods by approximately two days, which his representing a decrease of 47 per cent and 91 per cent respectively from the current average.


    As of February 12, the current rate of obligations under the Trade Facilitation Agreement was 61.3 per cent.

    According to the level of development, this is equivalent to the 100 per cent implementation rate by developed countries, 60.3 per cent among developing countries, and 22.8 per cent among least developed countries.

    The developed countries committed themselves to the full implementation of the Agreement upon its entry into force, while the developing and least developed countries have developed their own timetables for implementation of the Agreement by taking into account their respective capacities.


    The WTO has been informed of these commitments in a series of notifications.

    There are three categories of implementation: A, B and C, especially in developed, developing and least developed countries, respectively.

    Saudi Arabia chose "Class A" as a method of implementing the Convention, as it is committed to the full implementation of the procedures and provisions contained therein once the Convention enters into force, with the exception of the "single window" and "consultations," which means the implementation of 39 out of the 41 measures adopted by the Convention "95 per cent implementation rate."

    The two remaining procedures will be applied periodically according to the terms of the agreement after obtaining the required technical assistance and raising the self-capacity of some concerned institutions.


    "A single window" means that all customs procedures are accomplished through a single window without moving from one department to another, or from one employee to another.

     "Consultations" means the completion of a large proportion of customs clearance procedures in consultation with the importer even before the arrival of the goods.


    The provisions of category "A" provides that Member States shall implement the Convention once it enters into force without delay "in the case of the least developed Member State within one year after entry into force."

    While the provisions of category "B" provides that Member States shall implement the Convention after a transitional period of its entry into force.

    The category "C" provisions obligate Member States to implement the Convention at a later date following the transition period specified after the entry into force of the Agreement and to announce their willingness to receive assistance and support for capacity-building.


    Category "A" concerns the technical aspects of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, which means any aspects that a developing country agrees to implement once the agreement enters into force.

    Category "A" obligations differ from those of poorer countries, where they need a longer period of implementation.

    Additional assistance from developed countries was required prior to implementation.

    Several members of today's discussions made positive remarks on progress in implementation, while some pointed out that much remained to be done to fully implement the Agreement by all Member States.


    Members called to meet in a timely manner the obligations relating to the implementation of the Agreement.

    Some pointed out that 2019 would be an important year by the deadline for least developed countries to report on the technical assistance they needed and developing countries, in addition to submit its final notifications concerning the dates on which the provisions of the agreement for, which assistance is requested will be implemented.


    A total of 16 new notifications were reviewed by the Trade Facilitation Committee that were submitted by members on their respective schedules for the implementation of the provisions of the Agreement and other information such as trading procedures and assistance provided for implementation.

    Members heard presentations on special procedures for the processing of goods at customs outlets, their temporary admission in special circumstances, National Trade Facilitation Committees, and pre-customs provisions for traders who may wish to clarify their transactions and trade before goods are shipped.


    The Customs Assessments Committee held a workshop on the linkages between customs valuation

     , and the Trade Facilitation Agreement provided opportunities for members and other organizations to share experiences at the national and regional levels.

    The agreement includes a time-limit for the output of a commodity within a maximum period of one to two days, half the rate for certain goods, and remove the goods from one window instead of moving between several windows, agencies, and offices, without prejudice to the effective level of government control of trade traffic across state territory.


    The customs department shall deal with the required documents before the goods arrive at the port "by sea, air or land" with a completion rate of more than 90 per cent.

     The importer shall perform the procedures of receiving all his goods before the arrival of the goods, while the importer pays the value of his goods electronically.


    To achieve this, the Convention establishes a uniform global format for the Manifest, and uniform controls and procedures for customs duties and customs clearance.

     Paperwork associated with customs procedures has been reduced by computer only, before the abolition of the paper and pen later, and unite the appeal procedures before the commercial judiciary in the world in terms of the sequence of procedures, the required papers, and quality.


    The agreement also ensures transparency in trade regulations and administrative procedures, and provide provisions to ensure free passage of "transit" of commercial goods, collect the import and export duties on goods, oblige Governments to adopt effective judicial and executive procedures to deal with corruption and bribery, publishing all their trade laws and addresses of their businesses on the Internet and others.​

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