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SmartLessons Competition on WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Implementation

The SmartLessons program in collaboration with the WTO TFAF and the World Bank Group’s T&C GP is coordinating a Special Competition on TFA implementation.

The goal of the Special Competition is to showcase the lessons learned (both successes and failures) in implementing trade facilitation reforms that help countries align  with the measures outlined in the WTO TFA at the country and regional levels.

We have received some excellent case studies but we would like to expand the topics covered.  Please see below for topic suggestions.  Case Studies from developed countries also greatly welcomed.

Deadline has now been extended so submissions will be accepted until September 9, 2016.  For this first competition in the series, they will only be accepted in English.

We strongly encourage you to contact the SmartLessons team at before beginning to write. For technical content, please write to Arsala Deane:

For more information, please visit For additional guidance please review the concept note.

Prizes: In participating in this Special Competition, you get a chance to contribute to the global development knowledge management agenda, own a publication and receive an award and recognition. World Bank Group authors are eligible to receive a performance award while non-World Bank Group authors are eligible to be invited to the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility to present their case study.


Simplification, streamlining and harmonization of trade procedures and documents

Trade transactions are often a complex process as they involve several inter-related and inter-dependent processes, procedures and documents. The presence of duplicated procedures and process, the lack of process optimization between customs and other border-related agencies, the non-standardization of customs clearance process, the multiple applications of the same information, the unclear requirements on the number of documents and the procedures required to trade are some of the issues adding to this complexity. One of the first reform actions is to reduce associated burdens, simplifying, streamlining and harmonization with international standards.

Potential Reform Activities

  • Introduce simplified documents that reduce the need for multiple interactions with various agencies and intermediaries;
  • Harmonize relevant data with international standards and introduce standardized formats of documents and forms;
  • Rationalize fees, duties and charges;

Implementation of a Coordinated Border Management (CBM) approach to border clearance

A CBM approach usually looks beyond customs clearance reforms to address the complex, multiple and sometimes contradictory objectives that the various border agencies pursue. CBM requires an integrated approach to clearance including a coordinated approach to inspections.

Often, border-related agencies other than Customs do not necessarily receive the same attention as customs agencies and as a result, reform efforts usually address only one part of the problem. Cooperation, information sharing and complementary tasks are needed to ensure a coordinated approach to improve border management and clearance.

Potential Reform Activities

  • Securing of political commitment on the national border management coordination effort, and implementation action plan;
  • Enhanced interoperability of systems across border related agencies’ capacity to implement efficient simplified and standardized procedures; and,
  • Data exchange mechanisms and systems created or strengthened among various border related agencies within the country and across borders.

Integration of risk-based border management systems into border inspections and clearance processes

Risk-based compliance management enables customs administrations and other border agencies to balance their control functions with trade facilitation by the use of systematic risk assessment, profiling and selectivity, and intelligence gathering. These analyses enable customs to target high risk cargos and traders while maintaining effective controls at all stages of the clearance process. Modern risk management systems take into account variables such as the country of origin, goods, importer and exporter, which leads to a considerable reduction in time for customs clearance and optimizes processes. This in turn generates important savings for the private sector due to a reduction of port delays, warehousing costs as well as merchandise loss or damage. It also increases the success rate of customs and border related agencies’ inspection findings.

Potential Reform Activities

  • Integrated risk-based compliance management strategy, where all agencies can share information, generating greater efficiency in their risk treatment of imported and exported cargo;
  • Creation  and implementation of a risk based methodology for border and technical control agencies;
  • Development of post clearance audit capabilities;
  • Creation of a system of import alert in risk cases, related to animal health, plant health and food safety; and
  • Testing procedures are uniformly conducted and accepted throughout the territory of the country.

Revision and drafting of trade-related laws to align them with the TFA

The content and spirit of the trade-related laws and associated implementation regulations can help facilitate or impede domestic and international trade. The simplification and harmonization of the legal and regulatory framework and their alignment with countries’ commitments under internal agreements and conventions is paramount to facilitate trade.

Potential Reform Activities

  • Undertaken legal review of national laws and regulations;
  • Undertaken a legal framework review of selected pieces of border related legislation;
  • Drafting of national laws while utilizing Public Private Dialogue mechanisms to raise awareness, solicit comments and to ensure inclusion, includes specific procedures required under the TFA.

Inter-agency coordination and design of institutional capacity building plans

Carrying out reforms requires strong and effective inter-agency coordination to ensure commitment to trade reform as well as an understanding of its full context to coordinate relevant tasks and mandates.

Potential Reform Activities

  • Design and implementation of a communication strategy;
  • Creation of interagency coordination mechanism between border related agencies to implement the reforms;
  • Set-up of National Trade Facilitation Committee including all the border related agencies and private sector.

Introduction of regional solutions to facilitate trade in support of regional integration

Regional integration is viewed as a way to enhance trade, create jobs and promote economic growth as traders will be able to operate openly and securely in a larger market without being discriminated against.  Countries view regional integration as a solution towards addressing problems such as small domestic markets, weak production structures, and slow economic growth. Therefore, offering solutions to inter-regional trade to overcome challenges could open up many opportunities for countries to engage in more trade and increase inter-regional markets accessibility and connectivity.

Potential Reform Activities

  • Implementation of a coordinated border management approach to risk management among countries in the region;
  • Compliance with international standards at the regional level;
  • Application of regional trade integration rules;
  • Revision of the regional legal, regulatory and institutional framework.

Improvement of transparency and accountability measures

Lack of transparency usually includes a lack of information provided to traders in terms of what items are controlled and by which ministry or agency, unclear requirements on the number of documents and the procedures required for export/import, etc.  Addressing these issues could help in enhancing predictability in the administration and application of the rules and procedures specified. Making trade rules more predictable reduces uncertainty, which has a direct effect on costs. Therefore, measures such as the publication of trade-related laws, regulations and procedures; enquiry points; and administration of advance rulings are quite essential. Moreover, the role of IT in the improvement of transparency and accountability measures is critical as they simplify and speed up trade data processing.

Potential Reform Activities

  • Enhanced automation including border clearance, national trade information portals and single window systems;
  • Publication and dissemination of related information on processes, fees and charges and policy requirements;
  • Efficient and effective use of information channels with private sector;
  • IT solutions for data publication to facilitate online data access.