New report on implementation of trade facilitation in developing countries

18 September 2014

​The report is based on research conducted in 26 least developed and developing countries, and provides valuable insight into the status of implementation of trade facilitation measures covered by the World Trade Organization's Bali Trade Facilitation Agreement.

The report, entitled The New Frontier of Competitiveness in Developing Countries: Implementing Trade Facilitation, presents an overview of the implementation challenges in the countries researched and concludes with general policy implications for implementing trade facilitation reforms.

Trade facilitation aims at cutting red tape to boost trade across borders. Trade facilitation is part of the World Trade Organization's "Doha round" of negotiations.

From 2011 to 2013, UNCTAD, in collaboration with the relevant national authorities, prepared national trade facilitation implementation plans in 26 countries, comprising of least developed countries, middle-income developing economies, landlocked countries, and small island economies in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.

The aim of the project was for each country to assess:

  • The status of implementation of the trade facilitation measures contained in the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement

  • The activities required for their implementation to reach full compliance of these measures

  • The countries' needs in terms of time, resources and technical assistance and capacity-building (TACB) activities

The report consolidates the results of the 26 national plans and is designed to assist least developed and developing countries as well as donor countries and agencies to gain a more factual view of the implementation challenges, including resource and time requirements as well as technical assistance and capacity building needs.

The report covers:

  • Level of implementation of trade facilitation in the participating countries (chapter I)

  • Implementation priorities and time and financial requirements (chapter II)

  • Expressed needs for special and differential treatment (SDT) (chapter III)

  • Use of selected implementation tools with a special focus on customs automation systems and national trade facilitation committees (chapter IV)

The report highlights that for the 26 countries surveyed, in general the level of implementation of the trade facilitation measures contained in the WTO Agreement is considerably lower in least developed than in developing countries. However, none of the participating countries had an implementation rate beyond 76 per cent of the totality of the measures contained in the Agreement. The lowest implementation rate was found to be at 19 per cent (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Level of the implementation of the TF measures per country
Figure 1: Level of the implementation of the TF measures per country
 

The report also underscores that those measures that were most often mentioned as not yet implemented, were those that require more advanced techniques as well as those requiring cross-sectoral or inter-agency collaboration (Figure 2)

Figure 2: Top 10 least implemented measures for LDCs and non-LDCs
Figure 2: Top 10 least implemented measures for LDCs and non-LDCs
 

The conclusions of the report (chapter V) present a number of policy implication as regards the implementation of trade facilitation reforms under the framework of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement; highlighting inter alia that trade facilitation remains a major challenge for least developed and developing countries.

Less than 50 percent of the trade facilitation measures contained in the WTO Agreement are fully implemented in these countries. Some of the major barriers for further implementation are lack of resources as well as lack of existing legal frameworks.

UNCTAD has since 2004 supported least developed and developing countries with technical assistance and capacity building in the area of trade facilitation. To this end a trust fund was set up in 2005, which has received contributions from the governments of Sweden, Spain, Switzerland and Norway.

UNCTAD's Trade Facilitation Section, Trade Logistics Branch, Division on Technology and Logistics continues to provide support in this field, presently thanks to support provided by the government of Sweden and the European Union. Countries interested in technical assistance or capacity building activities in this field are invited to contact the division: [email protected]