ECOWAS member states have been urged to ratify the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement which was reached at the Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013. The call was made by Mr. Paul Fekete, Senior International Trade Advisor at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID –Washington); when he made a presentation on the “impact of trade agreements on the movement of agricultural products” at the just ended fourth annual conference of Borderless Alliance held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. Mr. Fekete explained that the main objective of trade facilitation is to reduce the cost of international trade transactions while maintaining an efficient and effective control systems; adding that it was in this context that the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement was brokered.
He said the Trade Facilitation Agreement in the WTO context, refers to Articles V, VIII and X of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which deal with freedom of transit for goods, fees and formalities connected with importing and exporting, and the publication and administration of trade regulations (transparency). He added that these with translate in achieving the broad objectives of expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods;
improve cooperation between customs and other authorities and enhance technical assistance and build capacity.
According to Mr. FEKETE, the US Government has, since 2001, provided US$15 billion in the form of assistance for capacity building efforts including supporting countries in assessing their needs within the wider context of the Bali agreement. He has therefore called on civil society organisations including Borderless Alliance to advocate for the timely ratification of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.
The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement
In December 2013, WTO members concluded negotiations on a Trade Facilitation Agreement at the Bali Ministerial Conference. In line with the decision adopted in Bali, WTO members adopted on 27 November 2014, a Protocol of Amendment in order to insert the new Agreement into Annex 1A of the WTO Agreement. The Trade Facilitation Agreement 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. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area and can only come into forceonce two-thirds of the 160 member –states of the WTO have completed their domestic ratification process.
Andrew Muniru Nantogmah
(Abidjan – Côte d’Ivoire)