The average international trade transaction is subject to numerous procedural and documentation requirements, which add to the costs of doing business as an importer or exporter and also use up scarce government resources. While these requirements can be necessary to fulfil policy objectives, questions are often raised about why and how they are implemented. The Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), adopted by WTO Members in 2014, seeks to expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods across borders and reduce these trade transaction costs - by an average of 14.3 per cent as estimated by the 2015 World Trade Report. At the same time, many WTO Agreements already contain provisions aimed at facilitating trade procedures and avoiding unnecessary costs. The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (the TBT Agreement) is one of these: its provisions on transparency and conformity assessment procedures, some of which are applied at the border, are of particular relevance in this context. The TFA and TBT Agreements are in fact complementary, with the TFA introducing some new requirements/recommendations, which are likely to apply to certain TBT measures. This paper maps out the linkages between these two Agreements. It does so with a view to informing TBT officials of the requirements and best practices emerging in the trade facilitation area as well as raising awareness amongst trade/customs officials of existing rules and evolving practices in the TBT area. The 2015 World Trade Report refers to “border agency cooperation” as the main TFA implementation challenge identified by developing countries and also points to the importance of cooperation and coordination between ministries as one of the main success factors. Considering that a significant share of import/export procedures and controls arise from the implementation of TBT measures, a better understanding of the linkages between the TFA and the TBT Agreement (as well as other relevant WTO Agreements such as the SPS Agreement) will be crucial for effective implementation. It will also contribute to more streamlined technical assistance activities and raise awareness among TBT officials of the opportunities generated by trade facilitation projects. The procedures and practices of the WTO TBT Committee, especially with regards to transparency and specific trade concerns, could also be of interest to the future TFA Committee, as it embarks on its task of furthering the implementation of the TFA. All these in turn will help reap the expected benefits of the new Trade Facilitation Agreement.


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  • Published online: 01 Jun 2016
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