New Multilingual Online Repository for National Trade Facilitation Committees Launched

17 January 2017

With the imminent entry into force of the WTO's Trade Facilitation Agreement, UNCTAD launches the new multilingual version of the UN Online Repository for National Trade Facilitation bodies.

An exciting time to trade

The Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which was incidentally the first WTO multilateral trade agreement to be concluded since the organization's creation, was first proposed in December 2013 as part of the Bali negotiations, and subsequently revised and signed by all WTO members in November 2014.

It will enter into force as soon as two-thirds its signatories have submitted their ratification instrument to the WTO, and with almost 100 instruments already in place and 30 on the verge of ratification, its entry into force is imminent.

This is a very exciting time for all stakeholders in international trade as the agreement will standardize and expedite global supply chains. It is expected to reduce trade costs by 14.5% and expand global trade by one to three trillion dollars annually, with two thirds of gains made by developing countries. Included in the Agreement is Article 23.2, where signing members committed to the creation of a National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC) which would be responsible for facilitating both domestic coordination and implementation of the provisions of the agreement.

This article was specifically created to enhance private-public dialogue and ensure that trade facilitation reforms are adopted in a holistic and inclusive way. However, experience show that establishing and maintaining a National Trade Facilitation Committee is not as easy as it sounds. Challenges such as a lack of awareness on the part of participants, a rotation of stakeholders or a lack of funds, are just the tip of the iceberg.

Thus, there is an increasing need for policy makers to know more about the experiences of other National Trade Facilitation Committees. Learning about others is crucial to achieving their full potential, but in a complex and multilingual international trading environment, communication itself can be a challenge. This is where the role of international organizations goes beyond the negotiating table.

The UN Online Repository for National Trade Facilitation Committees

In an effort to enhance transparency and the free flow of information, UNCTAD has created an Online Repository for National Trade Facilitation Bodies — an online platform promulgating information on National Trade Facilitation Committees. The underlining objective is to compile data from NTFCs around the globe into a single standardized repertoire to expedite research and comparisons. Although UNCTAD has been gathering NTFCs country cases since 2008, it was only in 2013 when an interactive repository was launched.

In an exciting next step, the Trade Facilitation Section recently launched a new multilingual version of its repository, with over 120 country cases. An interactive map shows users which NTFCs have already been formally established and the legal instruments they used such as decrees, ministerial decisions, and terms of references, among others.

National Trade Facilitation Bodies

The repository also covers a wide range of topics including the scope of the organization, motivations for its establishment, frequency of meetings, membership, lessons learned, etc. Most significantly, the repository also provides contact information for individual committees, allowing all interested parties to go further and acquire additional information straight from the source. Users can also retrieve particular national cases to allow comparison of their NTFCs with those in other countries.

The website has also been expanded to include additional trade facilitation resources such as guides, recommendations and guidelines for developing National Trade Facilitation Committees. This library of resources for NTFCs includes not just UNCTAD tools, but also useful documents from the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the International Trade Center. These two organizations cooperate with UNCTAD in the maintenance of the repository as well as in the delivery of the Empowerment Programme for National Trade Facilitation Committees.

UNCTAD's Empowerment Programme for National Trade Facilitation Committees, also described in the UN Repository, is an intensive professional programme for the Secretariat and NTFCs members, which assists with the implementation and coordination of trade facilitation reforms including the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. This programme is based on UNCTAD's 40 years of expertise in supporting the establishment of trade facilitation bodies in developing countries.

Finally, the website's newest upgrade includes ongoing translation into French and Spanish, with over 40 country translations already available. This latest effort parallels UNCTAD's dedication to the diffusion of information by enabling a greater number of traders, investors and government officials to benefit from the United Nations' resources.