The country of Niger has become the 12th World Trade Organization member and the first Least Developed Country to ratify the new Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Niger’s ambassador to the WTO, Ado Elhadji Abou, presented the instrument of acceptance of the TFA to director-general Roberto Azevêdo on Thursday. The Sub-Saharan nation counts cotton as a key agricultural product and receives preferential trade status as part of the U.S. African Growth & Opportunity Act program.

The TFA will enter into force once two-thirds of the 162 WTO members have formally accepted the agreement. In addition to Niger, the U.S., Nicaragua, Trinidad and Tobago, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mauritius, Malaysia, Japan, Australia and Botswana have ratified the TFA.

Concluded at the WTO’s 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference, the TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.

The TFA broke new ground for developing countries and LDC countries in the way it will be implemented. For the first time in WTO history, the requirement to implement the agreement was directly linked to the capacity of the country to do so. In addition, the agreement states that assistance and support should be provided to help them achieve that capacity.

When it was agreed upon in Bali, an International Chamber of Commerce study estimated the TFA could boost global gross domestic product by $960 billion annually and increase exports of developing countries by $570 billion and of developed countries by $475 billion. The ICC also said it could create 18 million jobs in developing countries and 3 million in developed countries.

In January, when U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman formally delivered the U.S. letter of acceptance of the TFA, he said, The agreement will unlock immense commercial opportunities for all developing and developed countries alike.  These benefits can only be fully realized with implementation of this agreement. We all want to start enjoying the benefits and we hope other members will take this crucial next step as soon as possible.”

A Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility was also created at the request of developing and LDC members to help ensure that 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.

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