By Barbara Olejnik
Poultry Times Staff
GENEVA — The Trade Facilitation Agreement, the first multilateral trade deal concluded in the 21-year-history of the World Trade Organization, has entered into force.
The TFA entered into force on Feb. 22 after the WTO obtained the needed acceptance from two-thirds of its 164 members for the agreement to take effect.
The agreement, which was agreed to at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia, in December 2013, aims to streamline, simplify and standardize customs procedures, thereby helping to cut trade costs around the world.
Estimates have shown that full implementation of the agreement could reduce trade costs globally by an average of 14.3 percent.
WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said, “By ratifying the agreement, WTO members have shown their commitment to the multilateral trading system. They have followed through on the promises made when this deal was struck in Bali just over three years ago.”
The United States formally delivered its letter of acceptance of the agreement in January 2015, becoming the third country to take this step.
At the time, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said, “The agreement will unlock immense commercial opportunities for all developing and developed countries alike. These benefits can only be fully realized with implementation of this agreement.”
The TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues.
The agreement is unique in that it provides developing and least-developed countries with the flexibility to set their own timetable for implementing their TFA commitments according to their specific needs and levels of development.
Director General Azevedo said the cumulative impact of the agreement is “striking.”
He pointed out that by 2030 the agreement could add 2.7 percentage points per year to world trade growth and more than half a percentage point per year to world GNP growth.
“This impact would be greater than the elimination of all existing tariffs around the world,” Azevedo stated.
When the TFA was agreed to in Bali, then President Barack Obama said, “This new deal and particularly the new trade facilitation agreement, will eliminate red tape and bureaucratic delay for goods shipped around the globe.
“Small businesses will be among the biggest winners, since they encounter the greatest difficulties in navigating the current system.
“By some estimates, the global economic value of the new WTO deal could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars.”