The Trade Facilitation Agreement

On November 17, 2015, Panama became the 52nd WTO member country to ratify the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). The United States has already accepted the TFA. The TFA will enter into force when two-thirds of the WTO’s 161 members have formally accepted the TFA, completed their domestic legal procedures, and submitted instruments of acceptance to the WTO.

What is the TFA and Why is it Important?

The TFA promises to improve trade efficiency and is projected to generate hundreds of billions of dollars in economic activity. The TFA contains provisions for improving trade efficiency by expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods across borders, including goods in transit.

For developing country economies, inefficiencies in areas such as customs and transport can be roadblocks to their integration into the global economy. These barriers can impair their export competitiveness or inflow of foreign direct investment. The TFA intends to enhance transparency and lessen some of the trade burdens for developing country members.

The Sections of the TFA:

  • Section I contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods across borders. It clarifies and improves articles of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994. It also sets out the provisions for customs cooperation.
  • Section II contains special and differential treatment provisions aimed at helping developing and least-developed countries implement the provisions of the TFA.

The Facility

The Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (the Facility) was created to support the full implementation of the TFA. The Facility intends to help ensure that the developing and least-developed country members receive the assistance needed to reap the full benefits of the TFA.

Visit the WTO website to learn more about the TFA and the Facility.