Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct15/13)
20 October 2015
Third World Network
Less than half of total to bring TFA into force
Published in SUNS #8113 dated 15 October 2015
Geneva, 14 Oct (Kanaga Raja) - The total number of ratifications of
the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) received now covers 49 WTO
members, or around 45 percent of the total needed to bring the Agreement
into force, the final meeting this year of the Preparatory Committee
on Trade Facilitation (PCTF) was told.
According to trade officials, the WTO Secretariat informed Members
that since the last meeting of the PCTF on 11 June, the number of
ratification instruments received has tripled.
Taking account of the fact that one of the ratifications - that of
the European Union - covers 28 members, the total number of ratifications
received now covers 49 WTO members, or around 45 per cent of the total
needed to bring the TFA into force.
In addition to the EU, Hong Kong-China, Singapore, the United States,
Mauritius, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, Botswana, Trinidad and Tobago,
the Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, Niger, Belize, Switzerland, Chinese
Taipei, China, Liechtenstein, Lao PDR, New Zealand, Thailand and Togo
have ratified the TFA.
The TFA needs ratification by at least two-thirds of the WTO members
accepting the Protocol before it can be inserted as among the agreements
in Annex 1A of the Marrakesh Treaty to make it binding on those ratifying
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 161 members (as of 26 April 2015) and the
acceptance instruments are lodged in the WTO before the TFA can enter
into force (with its rights and obligations kicking in for the ratifying
No deadline has been set for when this will be achieved.
Trade observers have noted that at the current pace of the process
of ratifications of the TFA, it seems unlikely that the Agreement
will secure the two-thirds ratification needed in time for it to enter
into force by the tenth ministerial conference of the WTO, to be held
in Nairobi, Kenya, from 15-18 December.
Trade observers say that in the face of the current stance of the
US, the European Union and their allies (and the WTO secretariat promoting
US interests), many developing countries who will be providing facilities
to enable US and EU corporations to dominate the markets of the developing
countries, are in none too much of a hurry to undertake their domestic
requirements for such ratifications.
Many of them are known to be regretting that, in adopting the Protocol
to incorporate the TFA into Annex 1A, they have given away the collective
leverage the developing countries had over the US, EU and Japan to
deliver on their development commitments.
According to trade officials, the Chair of the PCTF, Ambassador Esteban
Conejos of the Philippines, described the increasing number of ratifications
as a "very welcome development".
The Chair said that he expected to have a substantial number of new
ratifications when the committee next meets in February 2016.
Several WTO Members reported at the PCTF meeting on their domestic
processes on accepting the TFA.
According to trade officials, Panama said its government was currently
drafting a document that would allow it to deposit its TFA ratification
instrument, well in advance of the Nairobi Conference.
Pakistan, Nigeria, Montenegro and Madagascar all outlined the state
of their domestic procedures for ratification.
The Chair said since the last PCTF meeting in June, the committee
has received new Category A notifications from Trinidad and Tobago,
Barbados, Uganda, Belize, Lao PDR, Saint Lucia and the Seychelles,
bringing the overall number of Category A notifications to 72.
(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.)
According to trade officials, the meeting also heard a number of Members
describing their efforts in carrying out the domestic reforms needed
to meet their commitments under the TFA, as well as the challenges
they have faced. These included China, Japan and Senegal.
The WTO Secretariat also provided to the meeting an update on the
Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF), which was launched by
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo on 22 July 2014 and became operational
on 27 November 2014.
The TFAF trust fund currently has approximately 800,000 Swiss francs,
including 104,000 Swiss francs in support from Austria, and pledges
of nearly three million.
With the Chair of the PCTF not anticipating any demand for input from
the PCTF for the Nairobi Ministerial, the next meeting of the committee
is set for 24 February 2016.