Red tape and unnecessary formalities at borders can diminish market access gains made through the lowering of tariffs. Uncertainty about import requirements, hidden and unreasonable fees, and slow border release times are among the non-tariff barriers most frequently cited by exporters.
WTO negotiations on Trade Facilitation were launched in the August 1, 2004 Decision by the General Council on the Doha Work Program.
The negotiating mandate is to clarify and improve customs-related commitments made in 1947, under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade relating to transparency (Article X), fees and formalities (Article VIII) and transit (Article V).
WTO Members have also agreed to aim to improve cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities, as well as to enhance technical assistance and capacity building (TACB) to assist developing countries with implementation. The agreed negotiating mandate includes the specific objective of “further expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit.”
Most WTO Members see the negotiations as bringing particular benefits to the ability of small- and medium-sized businesses to participate in the global trading system.
In the negotiations, the United States has submitted proposals on advance administrative rulings on specified customs matters, internet publication of customs procedures and documents, procedures for expedited shipments, elimination of consularization requirements and transition provisions for developing and least-developed country members.
Additional information on the Trade Facilitation negotiations including the draft consolidated negotiating text, can be accessed through the WTO website. Click here for further information on customs matters.