Workplan 2020


The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement entered into force on 22 February 2017, when more than two-thirds of the WTO Membership had domestically ratified a Protocol of Amendment and notified the WTO of their acceptance of this Protocol.[2] Seven ratifications have been received in 2019 reaching a total of 147 WTO Members representing 89.6% of the total membership of 164.

Eighty-five developing Members (96%) have presented their completed Category ABC designations. Over 90% of developing Members have presented notifications relating to definitive dates for the implementation of their Category B and C designations, as well as details on their technical assistance and capacity building (TACB) needs required to implement their Category C designations.

Twenty-Seven (75%) LDC Members have presented their Category ABC designations. Nine LDC Members (33%) have presented all of their TACB requirements and less than 20% have presented definitive dates for the implementation of Category B and C designations.

A full and up-to-date analysis of all ratifications and notifications can be found on the TFA Database.[3] These notifications inform the TF Committee, TFAF and TF stakeholders-at-large of Members' TFA   implementation progress, anticipated timelines and assistance needs.

The TFAF Work Plan

This document sets out the work plan for the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF or the Facility) for 2020. Detailed information on the operation of the Facility can be found in the Operational Guidelines that were issued on 25 June 2015.[4] The Facility is funded on a voluntary basis by donor Members through the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility Trust Fund. Implementation of the activities in this work plan will also require cooperation from development partners operating at international, regional, and national levels.

In line with the agreed Operational Guidelines, this work plan has the primary goal of assisting developing and least developed country Members to: (1) find assistance for implementation of the provisions of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), (2) ratify the TFA, (3) submit TFA notifications within agreed deadlines, and (4) enhance the operation of their national trade facilitation committees.

To make progress towards these goals, in 2020, the Facility will carry out tasks organized under four linked headings: A. Matchmaking and funding, B. Ratification, notifications and implementation,        C. Implementation support and capacity building, and D. Participation in external events.

The Facility's work is furthermore aligned to the timescale and deadlines of the TFA, it follows the priorities identified in the WTO TF Committee and is based on the implementation needs of developing and LDC WTO Members. Following this demand-driven approach, this work plan establishes the broad focus of the proposed activities for 2020, without detailing the locations and specific topics of individual activities which are established over the course of the year as the needs of the Members are communicated. Details on upcoming activities and feedback on recently completed tasks are communicated to stakeholders at regular updates throughout the year; notably in reports to Members at meetings of the WTO Trade Facilitation Committee, regular meetings with contributors to the TFAF trust fund and in a comprehensive annual report[5] published on the TFAF website. In line with its development partners' priorities, TFAF pays special attention to the participation of women and prioritizes representatives of LDC Members in all activities.


2020 in summary

Twenty-two August 2019 was the last deadline for the Section II notifications for developing Members.[6] In 2020, the Facility will work on upcoming notification deadlines for LDC Members,[7] and will continue to support the completion of any outstanding Section II notifications for developing and LDC Members, as well as the transparency[8] and donor notifications required by various provisions of the TFA. Particular attention will be paid to the transparency notification in those instances where Members have designated the corresponding articles under Category A, or when the corresponding definitive dates notified by the Member have passed and the notifications are therefore considered to be already due

Beyond this continued support to the notification process, in 2020 a main focus of TFAF's work will be assisting Members to find the support they need to implement their Category C designations. This will include activities designed to give Members the opportunity to present and articulate their needs to development partners and donors. The Facility will continue its work of 2019 to take a proactive approach to identifying and supporting Members who may need to submit an expression of interest, as a first phase to apply for the TFAF grant program.      

For trade facilitation work, including TFA implementation to move forward at the national level, it is imperative that national TF committees are established and functioning. In 2020, the work of  TFAF will build on courses offered in previous years and will continue to strengthen the capacity of national committee chairs and members, for example by providing workshops to enhance border agency cooperation.

TFAF participation in external events will continue to be a cost-effective method to ensure an up-to-date, accurate message on the requirements of the TFA and the assistance available to Members on TFA implementation. Such events include those organized by partners based outside Geneva, that do not necessarily have access to the latest information relating to implementation, as well as to disseminate and promote the use of tools, including the TFAF website[9] and TFA database, without the need to dedicate greater resources to organize additional events and to avoid duplication.

The above priorities have all been identified by Members themselves in the course of outreach and in feedback received in the evaluation of events to-date. This reinforces the messages on priorities articulated by Members in the TF Committee and in its dedicated session on technical assistance.

TFAF will offer two six-month internships for graduate students studying a related field to allow them to acquire experience in trade facilitation. The internship will be administered through the WTO internship program and funded through the Facility. Interns will support the work of the Facility.

Based on the demand in previous years, an estimated costing for activities anticipated in 2020 is provided at the end of this work plan. The expected total of costs for 2020 is reduced compared to 2019. The expected number of thematic and regional workshops and participation in external events have been reduced based on the experience of 2019.


Summary of Lessons learned

Since it became operational at the start of 2015, TFAF has organized over 65 activities, further building on the experience of two phases of TF needs assessments which reached over 100 Members. In this period, TFAF has built significant institutional memory on the development and delivery of technical assistance in support of the TFA. This experience informs all of TFAF's work. Best practices are also identified and implemented from other technical assistance programs within the WTO Secretariat including the Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation (ITTC), the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) and the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), as well as technical assistance efforts delivered in support of the work of other WTO Committees. Close cooperation with international organizations implementing the TFA has also informed the work of the Facility, as well as inputs from development partnerts and the broader Membership shared during feedback and reporting sessions.

Specific, detailed examples of where lessons learned have informed the planning for 2020 are included throughout the workplan, but the following key points relating to efforts to ensure value for money and to maximize the learning outcomes for participants, can also be summarized as follows:

  • To better track its impact and outcomes, TFAF updated its log frame and project management procedures in 2019. Continuous improvements will be made in 2020, including strengthened evaluations and the introduction of a new approach to processing activity requests, illustrated below. Requests are invited from WTO Members as early as possible and with a detailed identification of needs, including the objectives of the workshop, expressed in terms of the objectives identified in the logframe. In this way, proposed activities can be designed, delivered, monitored, evaluated and reported in common terms and against their contribution to the agreed goals of TFAF.
  • Based on the experience gained since the recruitment of a dedicated communications officer in 2018, TFAF will further reinforce its website and communications tools in 2020. This will include continued improvements to the appearance and content of the TFAF website and the introduction of new tools to communicate with participants in workshops. Logistics information will be shared more efficiently and learning tools and feedback will be sought in real time to identify best practices and challenges to be integrated in future activities.
  • To assist Members to meet TFA notification deadlines, specific thematic sessions and dedicated one-to-one meeting times have been shown to generate positive results. In 2019 TFAF supported 21 developing and LDC Members to submit 33 notifications and 1 instrument of ratification. Similar sessions are therefore planned for the 22 February 2020 deadline
  • Following the launch of the TFAF Grant Program in October 2018, applications were slow in coming forward. In response, TFAF organized discussions with donors to ensure that the contingency principle of TFAF grants is not undermined, and subsequently took a more proactive approach to supporting eligible Members to submit expressions of interest. During workshops organized in the margins of the WTO TF Committee of 15 October 2019, the TFAF team organized one-to-one sessions to work with Members to identify those with unmet needs for support and who are therefore eligible to apply for a TFAF grant. Thirty-three expressions of interest were submitted from 13 Members. These were be circulated in November 2019 and will generate some grant applications which may lead to projects in 2020. This proactive approach to identifying potential applicants will continue in 2020.
  • Activities are only sustainable when the correct participants are involved. Workshops are pitched at different levels of technical understanding, based on the needs expressed in activity requests, but once that level is fixed, it is essential to ensure that all participants meet the minimum requirements to participate fully and take maximum benefit from the activities delivered. In all activities it hosts, TFAF requires participants to submit an application form detaling their relevant professional experience and participation is reviewed on this basis. This would normally involve, as a minimum, participation in a National Trade Facilitation Committee. For participation in external events, TFAF works with the inviting organization to understand the needs of the audience and pitch interventions accordingly.
  • As described in detail in Section 5.0 B below, regional workshops present an opportunity to respond to the needs of multiple Members at once. This includes through the involvement of regional bodies and also reflects the recognition of the needs for regional implementation solutions in the Agreement itself. Moreover, in the exchange of best practices and challenges met, Members can generate significant peer-to-peer learning, which is not directly possible at the national level. Identifying cross-border solutions is also possible when neighbouring countries participate collectively. Moreover the opportunity to coordinate the efforts of other international organizations in their TFA implementation actions is particularly relevant at regional workshops. While costs and workload involved in delivering regional workshops is higher than at the national-level, positive outcomes can be similarly exponentially increased.
  • With regard to thematic workshops, following the established practice TFAF will continue to support capital-based officials to attend select TF Committee meeting. To ensure value for money and to make best use of the time of attending TF experts events, depending on the length of the Committee meeting, TFAF may continue to organize side events on donor and partner assistance programs and other topics necessary to support implementation of the TFA. First option on the topics in question will be given to development partners.




Activity process cycle

TFAF Activity Process Cycle



Breakdown of tasks to be conducted in 2020


Task 1: Matchmaking

As the majority of developing and many LDC Members have completed their Category C notifications, the need to find donors in order to implement their Category C provisions by their notified dates of implementation is a clear priority. The WTO Secretariat assists Members to find assistance for the implementation of these Category C provisions through the following methods:

  1. Making the notifications available[10] so they are easily accessible to donors and implementation partners. All notifications received are made available within days and can be easily analysed to understand implementation progress, including timelines and the assistance required with breakdowns available nationally, regionally and by economic status.
  2. Providing profiles for each developing and LDC Member with information on implementation assistance and development partners. (For example, information extracted from Article 22 notifications).[11]
  3. Conducting events featuring available assistance programs and opportunities to meet with the donor partners. Preparing Members for participation in these events by presenting them with up-to-date information on their current implementation status, including TACB needs and available support.
  4. Regular meetings with partners to enhance coordination and cooperation.


  1. Helping individual Members find assistance through direct matchmaking with partners. This occurs in response to a direct request from a Member and is the first step in the grant application process.
  2. Organizing meetings at the WTO between appropriate developing or LDC officials and donor partners – (with partners outside Geneva and capital-based officials on conference call).
  3. Identification of support needs and donor matchmaking is also facilitated through national and regional workshops as described below in tasks 3 and 4.


Task 2: Operation of TFAF grant funding program

On October 9, 2018, TFAF launched its Grant Program. This made available project preparation and project implementation grants for Members that are unable to find assistance needed to implement provisions designated in Category C. In order to ensure a common basis for considering grant applications, an Expression of Interest (EoI) procedure has been established as the first step in any TFAF grant application. This EoI requires applicants to provide an explanation of their needs and steps taken to date to seek support. This information is then circulated to all relevant partners to ensure no duplication takes place with their existing technical assistance provision. If no partner offers to assist with implementation, the applicant is eligible to apply for a TFAF grant.

Project preparation grants are available up to US$30,000. Project implementation grants are available up to US$200,000. Requirements, terms and conditions for the grants are set out in operational rules specific to this program and are explained to applicants in guidelines. All information, including application forms, is available on the TFAF website[12]

Expressions of interest, grant applications and ultimately grant-funded projects will increase in 2020. Following its launch, applications to the grant program have been slow in coming forward. In response, TFAF organized discussions with donors to ensure that the contingency principle of TFAF grants is not undermined, and subsequently took a more proactive approach to supporting eligible Members to submit expressions of interest. During workshops organized in the margins of the WTO TF Committee of 15 October 2019, the TFAF team organized one-to-one sessions to work with Members to identify those with unmet needs for support and who are therefore eligible to apply for a TFAF grant. Thirty-three expressions of interest were submitted from 13 Members. These will be circulated in November 2019 and will generate some grant applications which may lead to projects in 2020.

While the EoI process provides a useful forecast of applications coming in the near future, given the contingency nature of the grant program, it is impossible to make an accurate estimate as to how many grant applications will be received. Stakeholders will be given regular updates on EoIs circulated, applications received and successful grant awards throughout 2020 and this information will also be available on the website.

Further work will take place throughout 2020, in order to continually strengthen the project management, monitoring and evaluation of the grant program. To increase the awareness and understanding of the grant program's rules and application procedures, presentations on these topics will be included at events organised and attended by TFAF throughout 2020 as well as continuing the individual outreach to identify eligible Members. An increase in the number of expressions of interest and grant applications can therefore be expected.


Activities related to ratification, notifications and Implementation of the agreement

Task 3: National Workshops

WTO developing country Members are entitled to request national workshops with a view to address specific training needs on the TF Agreement and its implementation. In this regard, the programmes for national seminars are elaborated by the beneficiary country in consultation with the TFAF team.

National workshops supported by TFAF will depend on the training needs identified by the requesting Member, and the level of knowledge and experience of the participants. TFAF will aim to tailor the structure and content of these seminars according to each specific request and through consultations with the beneficiary Member during the preparation phase of the seminar. In addition, Members must clearly outline the objectives of national seminars in the submitted training requests, in order to allow TFAF to respond more effectively to the training needs of Members.

Based on the priorities identified for 2020 in section 2.0 above, national workshops will be available upon request, in the following areas:

  • workshops for Parliamentarians and ratification bodies in countries that have not ratified the Agreement (all WTO Members must ratify).
  • activities with national authorities to assist with outstanding TFA notifications;
  • support for the establishment and strengthening of national trade facilitation committees (NTFCs);

National workshops will be conducted by WTO Staff and experts from international or regional organizations and/or national customs administrations as appropriate.

To increase complementarity with efforts under Section A on matchmaking and funding, workshops will include a segment dedicated to outreach with development partners present in-country.


Task 4: Regional and Sub-regional Workshops

Regional and sub-regional workshops can be delivered at the request of Members in cooperation with the relevant bodies at the regional level. As at the national level, the programs for regional workshops rely on close cooperation with the beneficiaries and are designed according to their TFA-implementation needs. While incorporating similar fundamental elements, regional workshops seek to go beyond the scope of national workshops and incorporate peer-to-peer learning between Members, reinforcing regional bodies with TFA capacity to support longer term planning and to overcome issues related to staff turnover in national administrations. Regional workshops systematically involve international organizations and / or their regional representatives avoidning duplication, increasing coordination and a harmonized approach to TFA implementation.   Regional and sub-regional workshops when appropriate are therefore more than the combination of a number of national workshops.

With the increased focus on implementation, some Members continue to identify issues that are making it difficult for them to establish functioning NTFCs; in particular a lack of cooperation and understanding of the TFA requirements by the various border agencies.  Based on observations of these challenges which have emerged in events in previous years, TFAF will further develop regional and sub-regional workshops in partnership with the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF), World Bank Group, World Customs Organization, UNCTAD, UNOHRLLS[13] and other organizations such as International Plant Protection Committee (IPPC), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), or their regional representatives, as well as specialists from WTO Members on border agency cooperation.

Such workshops will build on those delivered in 2018 and 2019 to provide joint training for customs, agriculture, and transit border authorities in developing countries. Based on the experience of delivering pilot activities and of the feedback received, further border agency cooperation activities will take place in 2020 according to demand and in particular where countries are lagging behind in notifications, assessing needs, identifying donor and implementation partner support and moving towards implementation.

Such workshops will seek to improve border agency cooperation in the national committee by raising awareness of the TFA requirements, the roles of each agency at the border, the role of the national trade facilitation committee, and the benefits of a coordinated approach to border management and trade facilitation.  The overall aim is to enhance the effectiveness of the national committee so that they can complete notifications and will be able to oversee implementation of the Agreement.

TFAF will work with the agencies mentioned above in delivering this joint workshop(s) in order to encourage coordination and avoid duplication.

Regional events will also aim to include a segment dedicated to outreach with development partners. This will support the matchmaking activities foreseen under task 1 above.

Several WTO Members have mentioned the synergies between the implementation of the TFA and the Customs Valuation Agreement. TFAF will work with stakeholders in 2020 to explore further synergies between the two agreements.


Task 5: National needs assessments

A total of 97 needs assessments have been conducted under the WTO needs assessment program. Further needs assessments have been conducted separately by other partner organizations. Since most Members have already conducted a needs assessment further requests will be limited, but their avaibility to those who have not yet done so has proven to remain an important contribution to the ratification and notification process.


Implementation support and capacity building

Task 6: Dedicated thematic workshops

Building on the success of a similar initiative in 2018, in 2019 the TFAF funding funded 58 capital-based government officials with trade facilitation expertise from more than 50 LDC and developing country WTO Members to attend a WTO Trade Facilitation Committee meeting which included the annual dedicated session on technical assistance and benefit from the event. Workshops on either end of the Trade Facilitation Committee meeting kept participants engaged and involved throughout the week. To maximise the impact of this activity, TFAF organised technical training activities for the visiting officials around the committee meetings. Feedback on this activity was extremely positive, both in terms of the travelling officials and comments made by other delegates to the TF Committee including TFAF donors.

On the basis of experience gained in previous years and including updates to the program based on the feedback received, the  Secretariat will organize and fund the participation of capital-based officials at select WTO Trade Facilitation Committee meetings in 2020; in particular meetings with a dedicated session.

Task 7: TFAF website[14]

One of the main roles of the TFAF is to disseminate information on the TF Agreement. The TFAF website plays a key role in fulfilling this goal. Through it information is instantly available in the three official languages on the TFA, donor programs, tools and case studies on implementation, ratification and notifications, etc. Awareness raising and training in the use of the TFAF website is an ongoing task and is delivered in a cost-effective manner as an element of the information presented through all activities, including those described under Task 8 below.

Reflecting the importance, positive feedback and user numbers of the website, the WTO hired a new staff member in 2018, with full-time responsibility to update and expand existing information as well as to grow the site and its tools, this work will continue at full pace in 2020.

Continuous website maintenance is essential to ensure that Members, and other users, have access to up-to-date information through a website that functions well, where information is easy to find and download in all three WTO languages. The Secretariat will extend its web maintenance contract in order to allow us to continue to enhance the functioning of the current tools, fix bugs and add additional functionalities that will streamline Members' information access and allow us to continue to make improvements suggested by the website's users throughout 2020.


Participation in external events

Task 8: Participation in external events

In 2020, the WTO Secretariat will continue to participate in TFA-related events organized by other international or regional organizations, national governments, the private sector and academia. Based on lessons learned, the aim of our participation will be to conduct TFA-related outreach and training and to support our partner organizations. These events include workshops, World Customs Organization TFA Working Group meetings, donor conferences, etc. Such participation in external events has proven to be a cost-effective method to deliver an accurate, consistent and aligned message on the TFA and the Facility, without the need to dedicate the necessary resources to organize and host national and regional events in all locations globally.

In addition, the WTO Secretariat plays a role in promoting cooperation and avoiding duplication with other organizations. Regular meetings take place with organizations engaged in TFA implementation activities. These activities are critical to supporting coherence in TFA implementation activities.

The Secretariat will also promote coherence through the active collection and sharing of information on implementation support programs through its website. Contacts with partners at external events are essential to this process.



Cost Estimates for 2020






Task 1: Matchmaking activities



Task 2: Operation of TFAF grant funding program






Staff Member at grade 7 position

Monthly salary, insurance, and pension

Accurate estimates cannot be made at this time as to the amount of funding that will be distributed under the grant program.



Dependent on applications






Task 3: National workshops

Up to 10


Task 4: Regional (or sub-regional) Workshops

Up to 3


Task 5: National needs assessments



Task 6: Dedicated thematic workshops



Task 7: TFAF website


Website maintenance and further development



35 days at 860 per day




Task 8: Participation in external events


Participation in events outside Geneva


Printing brochures and publicity materials











Internship for Graduate Student




TOTAL (estimates for known costs. Not including grants)





N.B. The inclusion of TFAF Grants will adjust the proportion of resources under each heading.


[1] All implementation statistics are correct as of 1 November 2019.

[2] The Protocol Amending the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization done at Geneva on 27 November 2014 (WT/L/940).




[6] Category C definitive dates for developing Members (not LDCs).

[7] 22 February 2020 Category B Definitive Dates for LDC Members.

[8] Emphasis will be placed on those transparency notifications which relate to provisions designated by Members as Category A. Such notifications are considered due as of their designation in Category A.





[13] United Nations Office of the High Representative of Land-locked Developing Countries, Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States