Developing countries submit WTO trade facilitation commitments with ITC support
Helping exporters in Burkina Faso,
“The involvement of the private sector must be through participation in analysis and decision making as well as in overseeing the implementation of trade facilitation measures.”
Nazaire Pare, Director General for Foreign Trade,
Ministry of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, Burkina Faso
With assistance from ITC in 2014, eight developing countries formally identified and announced binding commitments to improve customs and border procedures, with a dozen more such notifications under the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the pipeline.
The agreement, concluded in December 2013 and written into WTO rules 11 months later, promises to be an important tool in helping developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs) reduce costs linked to international trade. This is particularly crucial for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which often lack the capacity, personnel and resources to navigate complicated border procedures.
Upon entry into force, the agreement will create binding obligations for WTO members to improve customs procedures, transparency and efficiency. However, before some TFA provisions become binding, the agreement’s ground-breaking development-oriented provisions specify that developing countries and LDCs must receive the technical and financial assistance required to implement them.
As the first step towards the implementation, developing countries and LDCs need to categorize their obligations under the treaty into Category A commitments, which they will implement immediately; Category B commitments, which they can only implement later; and Category C commitments, for which they require assistance and support.
Tajikistan and Mauritius
As a result of the consultation process and ITC support, Burkina Faso decided to re-evaluate the classification it had previously drafted, said Nazaire Pare, director general for foreign trade at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts. To make sure the measures adapted address real bottlenecks to trade, private sector participation in policy making has been key, he said.
‘The involvement of the private sector must be through participation in analysis and decision making as well as in overseeing the implementation of trade facilitation measures,’ Pare added.
ITC has played an instrumental role in Tajikistan’s timely submission of its Category A commitments, according to Saidrahmon Nazriev, the country’s deputy minister of economic development and trade. Following a workshop in June, with the participation of representatives of the public and private sector, Tajikistan made its submission to the WTO in July. As a landlocked country, Tajikistan expects to draw important benefits from the TFA, Nazriev said. ‘The agreement has the potential to be of particular benefit to our traders, who continually face lengthy and costly border delays. It will be important for Tajikistan’s businesses to monitor its implementation in the countries with which they trade,’ he added.
“We look forward to the full implementation of the TFA not only in Mauritius, but also at our trading partners. For an open economy such as ours, seamless borders are key to the international competitiveness of our enterprises.”
Israhyananda Dhalladoo, Ambassador,
permanent representative of Mauritius to the WTO
Mauritius in April 2014 was among the first developing countries to notify trade facilitation commitments to the WTO following assistance from ITC and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Its government believes it is important for ITC to work with as many countries as possible to hasten the implementation of the agreement, according to Ambassador Israhyananda Dhalladoo, permanent representative of Mauritius to the WTO. ‘We look forward to the full implementation of the TFA not only in Mauritius, but also at our trading partners. For an open economy such as ours, seamless borders are key to the international competitiveness of our enterprises,’ he said.
ITC and UNCTAD assisted in building stakeholder awareness, particularly among the private sector, of the TFA and its implications, both with regard to categorizing TFA commitments and the establishment of the Mauritius National Trade Facilitation Committee which will oversee their implementation, Dhalladoo explained. ‘The project has created national momentum around the TFA implementation process,’ he said. ‘The ground has been very well prepared.’
Defining what measures the country can implement on its own and where it needs assistance is just the first step, said Pare of Burkina Faso. ‘We require further support in capacity building on implementation, on increasing the awareness of the new measures in the business community and in identifying the funding needs for Category C measures,’ he said.
Tajikistan is looking for support in strengthening the capacity of staff at the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade. In this way they can better oversee the implementation of TFA provisions, said Inoyatullo Kasimov, head of the Department of WTO Affairs at the ministry.
ITC will build on this work in 2015, with plans to assist more than 20 additional countries in scheduling their trade facilitation commitments.
Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland