unctad.org | Reflections on a Future Trade Facilitation Agreement: Implementation of WTO Obligations - A Comparison of Existing WTO Provisions
Reflections on a Future Trade Facilitation Agreement: Implementation of WTO Obligations - A Comparison of Existing WTO Provisions
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Full Report ( 63 Pages, 798.0 KB )


The WTO negotiations on trade facilitation are part of the Doha Development Agenda, which grants central importance to developing countries objectives and implementation concerns.

In the view of many, multilateral rules on trade facilitation stand a chance to yield real benefits for developing and landlocked countries, if these countries are provided with an effective capacity to implement their commitments.

The text setting the modalities of negotiations on trade facilitation, the Annex D of the socalled July Package 2004, clearly states that the negotiated outcome will take full consideration of the principle of special and differential treatment and that it should go beyond traditional approaches to special and differential treatment (S&DT). Members aim at crafting legal provisions which are more effective than the existing ones in addressing implementation concerns of developing countries.

UNCTAD provides technical assistance and capacity-building to developing countries during the negotiations to support their effective participation. Advisory services to delegations of developing countries are part of this endeavour. This study contributes to the objectives of UNCTAD’s technical assistance. It provides a review of selected provisions of World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements as they relate to S&DT, the review and monitoring mechanisms for the implementation of agreements, and the role of the supervisory bodies of the agreements. When examining these provisions and mechanisms, clarification is provided on their legal and operational effects keeping in mind their potential relevance for the discussions in the Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation (NGTF).

The review shows that a shortcoming of the currently existing provisions is the lack of operational and legal linkage between technical assistance, special and differential treatment regarding the application of commitments and the reporting, notification and review requirements of member States. On-going discussions in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and TBT Committees and the TRIPS Council underline the benefits and importance of strengthening transparency and reporting mechanisms for a more effective application of the special and differential treatment provisions.

The study concludes that a new and more effective approach to the implementation of WTO obligations should link S&DT flexibilities to technical assistance commitments and an effective transparency mechanism. Based on the findings of the review of the existing provisions, the study concludes with an outline of such a comprehensive implementation framework and the procedural requirements it entails.


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