National Trade Facilitation Bodies in the World

Transport and Trade Facilitation Series, No 6

Setting up a national mechanism is in itself one of the most traditional and most important trade facilitation measures to ensure that the main public and private stakeholders are consulted and engaged in the elaboration and implementation of national trade facilitation reforms. Over the past decades, it has received a lot of attention from national and international agencies dealing with trade facilitation.

Undoubtedly, since UNCTAD published its Trade Facilitation Handbook Part I – National Facilitation Bodies: Lessons from Experience in 2006, the picture has changed for trade facilitation working groups. The presence of trade facilitation in the international trade agenda has increased and trade facilitation working groups now benefit from stronger national, regional and international support. As shown in recent UNCTAD research, the number of provisions related to customs and trade facilitation included in regional trade agreements has increased, including those that encourage or require the creation of trade facilitation bodies.

Moreover, almost a decade after they were launched, the negotiations on trade facilitation at the World Trade Organization successfully came to an end in December 2013. World Trade Organization members have committed to creating or maintaining a national trade facilitation committee, as stated in section III, article 23.2 of the Agreement on Trade Facilitation.

In this context, this UNCTAD publication, based on an in-depth analysis of 50 trade facilitation bodies, could not be timelier. It provides the first quantitative analysis of existing national trade facilitation bodies and a first-hand set of recommendations extracted from the experiences of participating stakeholders. The study provides policy-oriented conclusions aimed at assisting those countries that are looking to set up or strengthen their national trade facilitation working groups.

In addition, UNCTAD’s new version of the online repository of national trade facilitation bodies was launched in autumn 2013. With a more interactive and user-friendly interface, the online repository presents information from trade facilitation platforms in over 80 countries and also assists UNCTAD member States in creating or strengthening trade facilitation bodies through useful information about country cases from different geographical regions on the establishment and management of trade facilitation bodies.

For over 40 years, UNCTAD has been promoting the creation of national trade and transport facilitation committees as platforms that enable developing countries to participate more actively in global trade. UNCTAD looks forward to keeping up this long-standing commitment, now that national trade facilitation bodies have widely been recognized as indispensable.