Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar15/07)
30 March 2015
Third World Network
TFA entry into force unlikely before Nairobi meet
Published in SUNS #7990 dated 26 March 2015
Geneva, 25 Mar (Kanaga Raja) -- At the current pace of the process
of ratifications of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), it seems
unlikely that the Agreement will secure the two-thirds ratification
needed in time to enter into force by the end of the year.
At the meeting early this year of trade ministers of key countries
on the sidelines of the Davos meeting, Kenya as the host country for
the WTO Ministerial Conference this year in Nairobi had expressed
the hope that this can be achieved by then.
But a meeting of the WTO Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation
on Tuesday showed that so far only four countries have ratified, while
a dozen others spoke of processes under way in their countries.
The Agreement needs ratification by at least two-thirds of the WTO
members accepting the Protocol before the TFA can be inserted as among
the agreements in Annex 1A of the Marrakesh Treaty to make it binding
on those ratifying it.
The Protocol of Amendment inserting the TFA into Annex 1A of the WTO
Agreement was adopted by members at a General Council meeting on 27
November 2014 (see SUNS #7927 dated 1 December 2014).
The Protocol will enter into force in accordance with paragraph 3
of Article X of the WTO Agreement, when it is ratified by two-thirds
of the WTO's membership of 160 and the acceptance instruments are
lodged in the WTO before it can enter into force (with its rights
and obligations kicking in for the ratifying members).
However, no deadline has been set for when this will be achieved.
According to trade officials, at the PrepCom meeting, many members
expressed their hope of seeing the agreement enter into force by the
tenth Ministerial Conference, to be held in Nairobi, Kenya from 15-18
Trade officials noted that Kenya's foreign minister, Ms Amina Mohamed,
had said that she would like WTO members to achieve entry into force
of the TFA by the Nairobi Ministerial meeting.
So far, only four WTO members - Hong Kong-China, Singapore, the United
States and Mauritius - have secured domestic acceptance of the TFA,
said trade officials.
Some 12 members reported that their domestic ratification process
for the TFA was underway, with the European Union, Switzerland, Chile,
Norway, Korea and Nicaragua highlighting target dates for gaining
the required approval.
According to trade officials, several developing countries highlighted
some domestic legislative hurdles that they will need to overcome
before they can secure acceptance of the TFA.
Several African countries indicated that they were not in a position
to ensure the ratification of the TFA by the Nairobi ministerial conference.
The Chair of the PrepCom, Ambassador Esteban Conejos of the Philippines,
said that he understood that a considerable number of additional WTO
members have started the ratification process.
The challenge, he said, is that the process is domestic in nature
and differs from country to country.
According to trade officials, Georgia, Mexico, El Salvador, Morocco,
Saudi Arabia and Colombia said that their efforts at domestic ratification
The EU said that it hoped the European Parliament would give its approval
to the TFA during its session in September.
Japan said that the government's cabinet had decided on 10 March to
submit the TFA to parliament for approval.
China said that the domestic consultation process with relevant agencies
was completed and that the matter was now before the State Council
According to trade officials, Switzerland reported that its two houses
of parliament had approved the TFA on 20 March and that the only remaining
barrier was a possible referendum.
It however said that it hoped to deposit its instrument of acceptance
in the summer.
Chinese Taipei said that its cabinet had approved the TFA on 12 February
and that it was now before its legislature for approval.
Norway said that it expected to secure acceptance of the TFA before
Chile said that its goal was to secure acceptance in June, when the
country will undergo its trade policy review at the WTO.
Korea said that it was still deciding whether the TFA requires adoption
by its parliament or whether it just needs to be approved by the government.
According to trade officials, South Africa underlined that it was
not possible to indicate with any degree of certainty how long its
acceptance process would take.
The parliamentary roster is determined by the speaker of the house
in consultation with the opposition, and does not take into account
extraterritorial timetables, it said.
While many have expressed their wish to see the TFA enter into force
by the Nairobi conference, South Africa said that it is simply not
in a position to share that endeavour because of these constraints.
Nigeria also said that the ratification process will be very challenging
as it will require domestic legislative changes. It however appreciated
the aspirations of securing entry into force of the TFA by Nairobi.
Guinea informed the PrepCom that a workshop on the TFA in Conakry
was cancelled due to the Ebola outbreak.
It expressed hope that the workshop could be rescheduled soon in order
to speed up the acceptance process.
Colombia said that the TFA would require two readings before its two
houses of parliament as well as review by the constitutional court.
With the latter step taking up to 3-4 months, it would be a "photo
finish" to secure acceptance by the Nairobi meeting, it said.
According to trade officials, the PrepCom Chair also informed members
that 55 notifications have now been received from developing country
members outlining their "Category A" commitments.
(Category A contains provisions that a developing country Member or
a least developed country Member designates for implementation upon
entry into force of the Agreement, or in the case of a least developed
country Member within one year after entry into force.)
Ambassador Conejos said that he was especially heartened to see the
first notification from a least developed country (Senegal).
"I understand that more notifications are currently being prepared,
which is a very welcome development," the Chair said.
According to trade officials, the PrepCom took note of the receipt
of 10 new Category A notifications since its last meeting.
In addition to Senegal, the new notifications are from Montenegro,
Botswana, Nigeria, Macao-China, Gabon, Egypt, Macedonia, Jamaica and
Meanwhile, the Secretariat gave a presentation on its new notification
database as well as a new web-page for the Trade Facilitation Agreement
Facility (TFAF), both which will be up and running shortly.
According to trade officials, South Africa asked about the available
funding for the TFAF.
Trade officials said that 1.3 million Swiss francs is currently in
the TFAF from previously-committed funding for needs assessment programmes,
but that substantial new funding pledges are expected and will be
posted on the WTO website when they are finalised.
The Chair informed members that the next meeting of the PCTF will
take place on 10 June. +