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International Customs Community renews its support for TFA implementation

Communication from the International Customs Community regarding the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA):

The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) was concluded at the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali in December 2013.  The TFA is the first WTO multilateral trade agreement reached since the WTO’s creation in 1995 and has raised significant momentum and political willingness to accelerate the trade facilitation agenda.  Full implementation of the TFA is expected to contribute to economic growth and recovery, improved revenue collection and alleviation of poverty.

The World Customs Organization (WCO) is the only inter-governmental organization with competence in Customs matters and is the voice of the international Customs community.  It brings together 180 Members covering more than 98 % of world trade.  The WCO has long supported the conclusion of the TFA, as trade facilitation has been one of its key objectives in its 60+ years of history.  WCO standards, instruments and tools, including the Revised Kyoto Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures (RKC), fully support the harmonized implementation of the TFA, as well as efforts to facilitate trade beyond the TFA.

As Customs is the key implementing agency of the TFA, the WCO and its Members have recognized the need to collectively ensure smooth and effective implementation of the Agreement for it to successfully lead to the envisaged developments at national, regional and global level.  This was clearly communicated in the Dublin Resolution already in December 2013.

In the past two years, the international Customs community has taken significant steps and invested particular efforts in ensuring a smooth and progressive implementation of the TFA.  These steps include : establishing a WCO Working Group on the TFA (TFAWG) which brings together Customs, other border agencies, Trade ministries, the private sector, the WTO and other international organizations, development partners and academia to collectively discuss all TFA implementation matters; developing and continuously updating the WCO TFA Implementation Guidance Web tool which provides guidance based on the numerous WCO instruments and tools, including the RKC; introducing the WCO Mercator Programme which provides tailor-made technical assistance and capacity building related to TFA implementation and is supported both by funding from development partners, as well as by a pool of experts from WCO Members.

On the occasion of the Tenth WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, the international Customs community in particular:

  • Affirms that the WCO is the international reference on Customs matters and that it has a prominent role to play in supporting TFA implementation by WTO Members.
  • Reaffirms that the WCO has the capacity to engage even further in the implementation of the TFA by providing tailor-made assistance to meet Members’ identified and specific needs.
  • Underlines the benefits of full TFA implementation for Governments and trade.
  • Stresses the need to accelerate the TFA ratification process.
  • Expresses its willingness and strong commitment to progress the implementation of the TFA and its readiness to support the earliest possible acceptance of the Protocol of Amendment to insert the TFA into Annex 1A of the WTO Agreement.  For non-contracting parties to the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention, the acceptance of the Protocol of Amendment is an excellent opportunity to consider acceding to the Revised Kyoto Convention as well.
  • Recognizes that the implementation of the TFA requires political commitment, investment in Customs services, technical expertise and technology and a renewed focus on capacity building in order to be successful.
  • Stresses the importance of cooperation and collaboration of stakeholders at international, regional and national levels, including the need to establish and maintain a National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF) as a functioning cooperation and coordination mechanism of relevant border agencies, Trade ministries and the private sector.  As the key implementing agency, Customs needs to have a vital and proactive role in the NCTFs.
  • Supports further enhanced cooperation and coordination between the WCO, the WTO and other relevant organizations.