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UPDATE: African Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) Reached

As reported by Railways AfricaTM in November 2016, a number of African countries have made significant strides in adopting the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

In a recent announcement, the WTO stated that a major milestone for the global trading system was reached on 22 February, when the first multilateral deal concluded in the 21-year history of the World Trade Organization entered into force.

In receiving four more ratifications for the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), the WTO has obtained the two-thirds acceptance of the agreement from its 164 members needed to bring the TFA into force.

Rwanda, Oman, Chad and Jordan submitted their instruments of acceptance to WTO director general Roberto Azevêdo, bringing the total number of ratifications over the required threshold of 110. The entry into force of this agreement, which seeks to expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods across borders, launches a new phase for trade facilitation reforms all over the world and creates a significant boost for commerce and the multilateral trading system as a whole.

Full implementation of the TFA is forecast to slash members' trade costs by an average of 14.3%, with developing countries having the most to gain, according to a 2015 study carried out by WTO economists. The TFA is also likely to reduce the time needed to import goods by over a day and a half and to export goods by almost two days, representing a reduction of 47% and 91% respectively, over the current average.

Implementing the TFA is also expected to help new firms export for the first time. Moreover, once the TFA is fully implemented, developing countries are predicted to increase the number of new products exported by as much as 20%, with least developed countries (LDCs) likely to see an increase of up to 35%, according to the WTO study.

The agreement is unique in that it allows developing and least-developed countries to set their own timetables for implementing the TFA, depending on their capacities to do so. A Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF) was created at the request of developing and least-developed countries to help ensure they receive the assistance needed to reap the full benefits of the TFA and to support the ultimate goal of full implementation of the new agreement by all members.

Developed countries have committed to immediately implement the agreement, which sets out a broad series of trade facilitation reforms. Spread out over 12 articles; the TFA prescribes many measures to improve transparency and predictability of trading across borders and to create a less discriminatory business environment. The TFA's provisions include improvements to the availability and publication of information about cross-border procedures and practices, improved appeal rights for traders, reduced fees and formalities connected with the import/export of goods, faster clearance procedures and enhanced conditions for freedom of transit for goods. The agreement also contains measures for effective cooperation between customs and other authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues.

More information on the WTO and trade facilitation, follow the provided link:

WTO and Trade Facilitation
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