The WCO Trade Facilitation Agreement Working Group (TFAWG) met for the tenth time on 22 and 23 October 2018. Delegates, representing Customs, other Border Agencies and Trade Ministries from WCO Members, Observers from several International Organizations, the Private Sector and Academia participated in the event. The Meeting was chaired by Mr. L. Satya Srinivas (India) who was elected from Vice-Chairperson to Chairperson, while Mr. Jonathan Page (Canada) was elected as Vice-Chairperson.
Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the WTO H.E. Ambassador Dalia Kadisiene, who is also the Chairperson of the WTO Trade Facilitation Committee, presented certain statistics indicating recent progress within the WTO work on the TFA implementation. The Ambassador underlined the importance of the complementary and mutually beneficial relationship between the WCO and WTO and also thanked the WCO for its valuable contribution to WTO’s work in the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
Welcoming the Ambassador, the Secretary General of the WCO Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, reminded that the WCO has developed different instruments and tools that support Members in implementing the TFA. He emphasized that, similar to the trend in WTO, the new focus of the WCO is on the implementation of these instruments and tools. He also highlighted the importance of monitoring the progress of the implementation.
The TFAWG was also addressed by two Brussels-based Ambassadors — H.E. Ambassador of Nepal Lok Bahadur Thapa and H.E. Ambassador of Uganda Mirjam Blaak Sow, who both emphasized the importance of the TFA and shared valuable experiences on the achievements in implementing the Agreement by their home administrations. H.E. Ambassador Thapa emphasized the role of TFA as the most crucial tool of economic growth for developing and least developed countries. He also shared his appreciation of the cooperation between WCO and WTO in this regard. He informed the TFAWG on the initiatives that Nepal is taking to facilitate trade.
Welcoming the Ambassador, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya congratulated Nepal for its efforts in trade facilitation. He also expressed his gratitude to Nepal for acceding to the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC) and for ratifying the TFA, both in 2017. He also underlined the important role of the RKC to support implementation of the TFA.
The WCO, together with other development partners, have invested considerable resources in awareness raising and providing tailored support for implementation of trade facilitation measures, including TFA commitments. In a panel session that followed, the speakers highlighted the implementation challenges identified in developing and least developed countries under the various TFA-related support programmes and the solutions that have been applied to mitigate these challenges.
The WTO Secretariat provided an overview of the latest developments and shared the relevant sources of information regarding ratifications, notifications and Members’ individual profiles, such as the WTO TFA Facility and TFA Database web sites.
The TFAWG was updated on the developments under the Mercator Programme. A dedicated panel discussed the challenges and solutions for National Committees on Trade Facilitation (NCTFs), while exploring how Coordinated Border Management can be further progressed through these bodies. The last technical matter that was discussed through a break-out session was Article 7.1 on pre-arrival processing and Article 7.8 on expedited shipments, especially in the context of E-Commerce.
The TFAWG also reached an agreement regarding the update of the Terms of Reference (ToR) to include, as another key deliverable, monitoring the progress of implementation of WCO instruments and tools that support Members in applying the TFA. The Group also agreed on the update of the Work Programme and Annual Work Plan 2018/2019 that provide direction to the future activities of the Group. Both documents will be submitted to the December 2018 Policy Commission for endorsement.
H.E. Mirjam Blaak Sow provided the closing remarks of the Meeting by presenting the latest developments in Uganda in the implementation of the TFA. She shared the accomplishments with the AEO programme, the development of a Single Window environment, the creation of One Stop Border Posts, the introduction of a Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System and the Single Customs Territory, currently with Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.