On 22 February 2017, the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) entered into force at the WTO (World Trade Organization), was ratified by 115 World Trade Organization member states, including The European Union, and it also contains important obligations for developing countries.
The agreement is part of the category of multilateral trade agreements and provides for provisions exclusively on customs matters, which will have to be transposed by the acceding States.
The TFA consists of 12 articles whose objective is to:
· To make goods transit faster
· Increase the level of transparency and smoothness of customs procedures
· Standardize the required documents for importers and exporters
· Rationalize costs.
According to WTO estimates, the agreement, once implemented by all member countries, will reduce the cost of cross-border trade transactions by an average of 14.3% and will increase the value of global trade by one billion trillion each year.
In addition, the agreement envisages over 40 technical measures that each customs administration has to adopt, such as the need to publish and make available all the information on customs matters, including on the internet, and the need to set up information centers. It is also envisaged to make interrogations to the customs administration and the right to appeal the decisions taken by the customs administration itself.
There is also an obligation for States to publish in advance all the details of payments made by the customs administration. A Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (“TFAF”) was set up to provide technical and financial assistance to developing countries.
It is important to note that these obligations will not enter into force for all States at the same time. Therefore, while for many states the agreement has produced immediate effects, other states such as Argentina, Brazil or India have made use of the possibility of applying certain articles of the agreement only on a date after its entry into force.