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25 Mar 11 - Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on Trade Facilitation in Regional Trade Arrangements (30-31 March 2011)

UNCTADUNCTAD's role in assisting developing countries to ensure coherence between their regional and multilateral trade facilitation commitments.


Trade facilitation has emerged as an important trade policy tool in an international environment where tariffs and quotas are falling and represent less of a barrier to trade. Trade facilitation has, therefore, attracted a lot of attention at both the regional and the multilateral level.

Over the past two decades, the number of trade facilitation measures in the growing number of regional trade arrangements (RTAs) has increased fivefold. More than 30 per cent of all the RTAs in force today contain some type of trade facilitation measure. In 2010 alone, 16 new RTAs were notified to the World Trade Organization (WTO), of which 80 per cent included such measures. The WTO Doha Development Agenda negotiations have, since 2004, made significant progress towards adopting a multilateral agreement on trade facilitation.

Two important factors in this evolving landscape of regionalization may inhibit the effectiveness of trade facilitation. One is the degree of divergence among RTAs with regard to trade facilitation measures. The other is the potential discriminatory nature of such measures to outsiders. The question then arises of how best to reduce any negative effects of such discrimination, while optimizing the positive effects of the trade facilitation initiatives being pursued. To maximize the benefits of trade facilitation, developing countries need to ensure coherence between trade facilitation measures at the regional and the multilateral level.

The objective of UNCTAD's upcoming Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on Trade Facilitation in Regional Trade Arrangements, to be held on 30-31 March in Geneva, is to suggest what the role of UNCTAD could be in assisting developing countries to ensure coherence between regional and multilateral trade facilitation commitments.

To this end, the meeting's participants will, inter alia:

  1. identify discriminatory trade facilitation measures, if any, that have resulted from developing countries' multiple memberships in various regional trade arrangements; and

  2. discuss the degree of convergence between these regional trade facilitation measures and relevant existing and future multilateral rules under WTO.

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