Reaping benefits from trade facilitation

11 December 2015

In a new policy brief, UNCTAD examines the potential impact that trade facilitation reforms can have on trade competitiveness and development, including a number of specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and on revenue collection and other public policy objectives.

The Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA) of the World Trade Organization (WTO), reached in Bali, Indonesia in 2013, represents a great opportunity for developing countries.

Experience shows that trade facilitation reforms improve a country’s trade competitiveness and enhance its revenue collection. What is more, they can help advance development goals such as strengthening governance and formalizing the informal sector. In addition, since many trade facilitation-related challenges and solutions are regional, the implementation of such solutions can boost regional integration.

This policy brief identifies the policies necessary for developing countries to reap the full developmentrelated benefits of trade facilitation reforms.

UNCTAD’s research and experience with technical assistance programmes have shown that trade facilitation reforms should be comprehensive and ambitious. Trade facilitation should also be linked to investments in transport infrastructure and other trade-supporting services. Given the linkages between trade facilitation reforms and implementation capacities, development partners need to focus their support on the most vulnerable economies, making full use of the promises and possibilities for technical assistance provided by the TFA.

Key points

  • The share of developing countries in global imports has more than tripled since 1970, and trade facilitation is increasingly important for their participation in global supply chains.

  • Beyond trade, trade facilitation reforms help advance SDGs related to strengthening governance and formalizing the informal sector.

  • There are strong links between trade facilitation reforms and implementation capacities; development partners need to focus their support on the most vulnerable economies.

UNCTAD Policy Brief