Stronger partnerships essential for robust deliverables on TFA implementation

  • 7 May 2015
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The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) joins forces with the World Bank and the United Nations (UN) on ratification and implementation of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

During its annual meeting in Geneva, the Global Facilitation Partnership for Transportation and Trade (GFP) identified private sector engagement as vital for effective implementation of the agreement.

The GFP brings together ICC, the World Customs Organization (WCO), the World Bank, the International Trade Center (ITC), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to achieve significant improvements in transport and trade facilitation.

Gathering at UN Headquarters in Geneva on 22 April, over 150 representatives of governments, private sector, international organizations and trade experts discussed the role of the business community in the implementation of the TFA. The meeting reinforced the numerous benefits the agreement will bring, in particular to small- and medium-sized enterprises and developing countries. By implementing the TFA many developing countries will increase their capacity to handle and grow their share of international trade and attract foreign direct investment (FDI).

Implementing the TFA

Since its adoption by WTO members in November 2014, thus far only Hong Kong, Mauritius, Singapore and the United States, have ratified the TFA. Ratifications from108 WTO members are needed for the agreement to enter into force.

Donia Hammami, ICC policy manager in charge of customs and trade facilitation, highlighted four key characteristics for a successful approach to TFA implementation: business engagement, ambition, speed and a coherent approach to implementation.

Applauding the 55 countries that already submitted their Category A commitments to the WTO Ms Hammami said: “Although many of the TFA provisions are to be implemented on a “best endeavors” basis, the message to governments is simple: the more you embrace the trade facilitation agenda, the more you give a leg-up to your local businesses in global markets”.

Category A provisions are to be implemented upon entry into force of the TFA. In order to capture the full benefits of TFA provisions, ICC recommends a harmonized implementation of TFA articles and identifies the World Customs Organization’s Mercator Programme as a useful guideline for a harmonized approach to implementation. While emphasizing the need for multistakeholder dialogue on the national level, Ms Hammami said: “In making coordinated border management a reality, trade facilitation would need to be championed by all agencies and stakeholders involved.”

Private sector engagement

In its global advocacy efforts ICC has always underscored the importance of understanding the border challenges businesses face to enhance national competiveness. Fostering private sector participation to facilitate practical feedback is instrumental to ensure government solutions fit practical needs and enhance trade flows rather than being burdensome for businesses.

In Geneva, the GFP’s members agreed to encourage private sector involvement, including SMEs, in their trade facilitation efforts. In its outcome document the GFP declared the establishment of national committees on trade facilitation an important step to safeguard regular consultation with private sector representatives in order to identify legislative gaps and bottlenecks. Furthermore, the GFP partners will provide technical support and capacity building to assist in the implementation of the WTO TFA in developing countries.

Learn more about the Global Facilitation Partnership for Transportation and Trade (GFP).

Learn more about the GFP April 2015 meeting and its Outcome Document.