WTO hails impact of Trade Facilitation Agreement on first anniversary

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The Trade Facilitation Agreement is a year old - and most World Trade Organization members have now fully implemented it.

The Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) has now been in force for a year - and the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been celebrating the impact of the treaty to mark its first birthday. 

During the 12 months since the TFA came into force, the agreement has been slashing the cost of trading across borders, with WTO economists claiming this will cut the costs of trade among its members by 14.3 per cent.

It will also cut the time needed to import goods by a day and a half on average (47 per cent) and to export by two days (91 per cent), a crucial consideration when perishable goods are involved. 

Significantly, these benefits will be felt most by developing countries, giving them an important boost as they seek to speed up their economic growth and improve living standards. 

The TFA was the first multilateral deal in the history of the WTO and came into force on February 22nd 2017, having been agreed by over two-thirds of the WTO's 164 members. Of these, 131 have now ratified it, the latest being Namibia earlier this month. 

Uniquely, the agreement allows less-developed countries to set their own timetables to implement its provisions, based on their capacity to do so. Category A commitments will be designated by developing nations as immediate priorities, with categories B and C to follow in due course. 

In Namibia's case, the country has had to take longer than most, but has now been able to get everything into place. Less developed countries will gradually be bringing themselves fully into line with the new agreement, with more likely to follow over the course of 2018. 

So far, all the developed WTO members have implemented the agreement in full, 56 per cent of developing members have done so and 1.7 per cent of the least developed members have completed the process. 

Commenting on the progress made in implementing the new deal in its first year, WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo said: "The TFA is one of the biggest trade reforms in a generation. By dramatically reducing trade costs, it will really bring great benefits for all WTO members, especially developing countries.

"We're working hard to implement the agreement in full and deliver those benefits."