WTO: Council approves protocol on trade facilitation
On 1 October 2015, the Council adopted a decision approving, on behalf of the EU, the conclusion of a WTO protocol establishing a trade facilitation agreement.
The purpose of the agreement is to simplify and modernise procedures for the movement of goods, including import and export procedures. The aim is to help smaller businesses exploit export opportunities and to facilitate developing countries' participation in international trade.
In December 2013, WTO members concluded negotiations on a trade facilitation agreement at a WTO ministerial conference in Bali, as part of a broader "Bali package" of trade measures.
In line with the decision taken in Bali, the WTO's General Council in November 2014 adopted a protocol of amendment inserting the new agreement into annex 1A of the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the WTO. The protocol was opened for acceptance by WTO members.
The trade facilitation agreement has three sections:
- Section I contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out provisions for customs cooperation.
- Section II covers special and differential treatment provisions that allow developing and least-developed countries to determine when they will implement individual provisions of the agreement and to specify those requiring technical assistance and support for capacity building.
- Section III includes provisions that establish a permanent committee on trade facilitation at the WTO, and require members to have national committees to facilitate domestic coordination and implementation of the agreement's provisions. It also sets out some final provisions.
WTO negotiations on trade facilitation started in July 2004 on the basis of a commitment to clarify and improve several articles of the 1994 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade with a view to further expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. In addition, the mandate referred to provisions for effective cooperation between customs or any other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues.
The trade facilitation agreement will enter into force once two-thirds of WTO members have completed their domestic ratification processes.
The decision was taken without discussion at a meeting of the Competitiveness Council.