UNCTAD steps in to help countries ratify global trade facilitation deal

26 June 2015

UNCTAD has launched a new vehicle to help developing countries speed up ratification and acceptance of the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade Facilitation, which aims at cutting red tape in cross-border trade in goods and services between the 161 countries that are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“The adoption of the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation marked a milestone in making international trade easier and cheaper, but only after it enters into force will developing and least developed countries start to reap its benefits,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said. “Governments now have the opportunity and responsibility to ratify the Agreement as soon as possible, following proper assessments and procedures.”

Huge savings in the cost of international trade and a much-needed boost to the global economy will be realized with the Agreement’s entry into force. But this can only be fully achieved when two-thirds of WTO members – 108 countries – ratify it. To date, only 8 countries have done so since the Agreement’s adoption in Bali, Indonesia, in December 2013.

“Many poorer countries have experienced domestic legal and capacity constraints in ratifying the Agreement on Trade Facilitation, which run the risk of slowing down the process of ratification,” UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Joakim Reiter added. “UNCTAD will now step in to specifically help countries overcome such legitimate constraints.”

At the domestic level, ratification involves verification of national legal requirements and procedures, which include identification of the constitutional requirements for approval of international agreements, elaboration of the domestic instrument that approves the Agreement on Trade Facilitation, approval of the Agreement and its ratification into law.

As the United Nations body that has long provided technical assistance to developing and least developed countries, with this new vehicle UNCTAD will be available to guide and support member States in taking the necessary steps to prepare for and ratify the Agreement. The new package supplements UNCTAD’s other wide-ranging activities in trade facilitation, including the elaboration of more than 30 national trade facilitation implementations plans, studies and technical notes, country and regional workshops, models to elaborate instruments of approval, an online repository on national trade facilitation committees, information technology-based implementation tools, such as the Automated System for Customs Data and the UNCTAD e-governance programme, and assisting in the WTO needs assessments programme.

In addition, UNCTAD collaborates with the International Trade Centre and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, as well as other intergovernmental organizations, in delivering many capacity-building and technical assistance projects for trade facilitation implementation.

“UNCTAD stands ready to support developing and least developed countries to strengthen their national capacities to implement and comply with the Agreement on Trade Facilitation. This support is part of a broader development strategy to facilitate trade, enhance customs collection and clearance, improve port management and promote domestic productive capacity,” Dr. Kituyi said.

UNCTAD presented its new vehicle for assistance on trade facilitation implementation, which included the step-by-step approach to ratification of the Agreement on Trade Facilitation, on 25 June 2015 at the executive session of the Trade and Development Board held in Geneva.