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 took his turn to make a presentation on the “impact of trade agreements on the movement of agricultural products” at the fourth annual conference of Borderless Alliance 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 the efficiency and effectiveness of control systems. He said that it is in this context that the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement was brokered. 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 force once two-thirds of the 160 member –states of the WTO have completed their domestic ratification process.
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 concluded by asking Borderless Alliance to advocate for the timely ratification of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.