WTO Chief applauds WCO for Trade Facilitation Agreement

imagesWTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo told the World Customs Organization (WCO) Council on 27 June 2014 that the WCO and the WTO are “natural partners” in efforts to implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement. He thanked the WCO for its support, including the establishment of the Trade Facilitation Working Group and the launching of the Mercator programme.

Customs administrations have long recognized the need to balance enforcement and facilitation — and to do so in a predictable, streamlined way. And, as the volume of global trade increased, the need to operate efficiently and effectively has grown. 

Indeed, the Revised Kyoto Convention, as well as other WCO tools and instruments, are the basis of many provisions of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.

In this sense the technical provisions in the Agreement are not new — they are already being used successfully in many countries around the world.

What the Trade Facilitation Agreement provides is uniformity — and therefore much greater predictability and efficiency.

It will also provide assistance to countries that need it. And this is a crucial point.

Although the specific measures may not be new, there is no question that Bali was a first for the WTO.

It is one reason why the Trade Facilitation Agreement is so significant.

And I think we must continue to work in this spirit as we work to put the text into practice.

A central element of this will be ensuring that the assistance that developing and least developed countries need will be available.

WTO donor members have given their assurance of far reaching assistance to ensure that everyone will have the capacity to implement the new Agreement — at their own pace.

A great deal of very welcome work has already been done. Donors are engaged and technical assistance providers and agencies are intensifying their work with recipients. But I know that some concerns still remain.

We have been working very hard to address these issues and ensure the provision of technical assistance to everyone, without exceptions.

My team and I have been talking to donors and consulting with the members to try to find a solution that would allow the WTO to assist those seeking technical assistance and capacity building support. Such a solution should:

  • create the best possible conditions for the flow of information between donors and recipients on their needs and options;
  • assist members in preparing and updating their needs assessments;
  • help members to develop technical assistance projects;
  • identify possible development partners for countries that might have had difficulties doing so by themselves;
  • and ensure that resources are available for all those seeking technical assistance.

We expect to be able to set out a new WTO facility along these lines before the summer break.

This will be a major step forward. But of course, we can’t do it alone.

Implementation will be an enormous task — and so all of this will require the full support and cooperation of donors, development banks and international organisations.

We have already begun to strengthen our partnerships with the Annex D organizations, especially with the WCO.

Last week the WCO took a good step forward to inform and educate your Geneva-based delegates about the significant amount of support that is already available.

Secretary-General Mikuriya and several members of the Secretariat made presentations at the WTO on the WCO’s impressive wealth of instruments, guidelines and training programs.

It is clear that these tools and extensive capacity building programs will be an essential ingredient in helping customs administrations to implement the new Agreement.

I greatly welcome your commitment to the efficient implementation of the TFA, which you underscored through your Dublin Resolution, just days after the Ministerial Conference in Bali.

I would also like to congratulate you on the establishment of your new Trade Facilitation Working Group.