To support the WTO Trade Facilitation Negotiations the World Bank launched a Trade Facilitation Negotiations Support Project in February 2005. The project was designed to assist Members with limited resources in Geneva to establish practical support mechanisms in their capitals to provide Geneva-based negotiators with real time analysis and advice on the content and cost implications of proposals that have been tabled in Geneva.
The project incorporated 4 components:
Component I involved the development and distribution of a Trade Facilitation Negotiation Support Guide to assist Members to establish and manage appropriate support mechanisms in their capitals, and to improve the level of communication between content area specialists and Geneva-based negotiators. (See WTO Doc. TN/TF/W/51).
Component II consisted of a series of national pilot workshops designed to promote the use of the Bank’s Guide and to demonstrate the usefulness of capital-based support groups to Geneva-based negotiators. Pilot workshops were initially conducted in Jamaica, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Benin and Peru and results achieved were shared with all WTO Members.
While the value of the work undertaken by the Bank was acknowledged by WTO Members and has made a positive contribution to the quality of the negotiation process, negotiators continue to be hampered by concerns about the potential costs associated with implementation of any new and binding commitments that might flow from a new Trade Facilitation Agreement. It was clear that many developing country and LDC Members were reluctant to agree to proposals until such time as they had a clearer understanding of the cost implications and, where necessary, the likelihood of appropriate technical assistance and capacity building support being made available by donors.
Component III was designed in response to Members' concerns to establish some indicative data on the potential costs and implementation issues that are likely to face developing and LDC Members if and when a new Trade Facilitation Agreement is concluded. Given the specific references to the provision of appropriate technical assistance and capacity building support contained in Annex D of the WTO Council Decision, the project was also designed to inform the donor community about the potential resource and support requirements they are likely to face in the future.
The study took the form of six in-country case studies. Countries were chosen on the basis of objective criteria and included countries from each of the World Bank’s regions and at different stages of development. A team of experienced Customs and trade facilitation specialists visited each of the six countries to conduct a detailed assessment to determine any gaps between current systems and procedures and the systems and procedures currently under negotiation in the WTO negotiations. A comprehensive report was presented to WTO Members in December 2006.
While the report provided detailed data for only six countries the information assisted to inform all WTO Members of the approximate costs involved and provided some broad ‘order of magnitude’ information that would lead to a greater sense of confidence that the costs associated with a new agreement were not beyond the means of many countries.
Component IV involved the development of a self assessment tool for WTO Members to use to determine their own needs and priorities for TA. The tool was piloted in Zambia in February 2007 and has been used as the basis for a series of national and regional workshops conducted by the WTO Secretariat. The tool was distributed as a WTO document in May 2007. (See WTO Doc. TN/TF/W143).
All Bank activities were planned and conducted in partnership with other Annex D organizations:
Working closely with our Special Representative in Geneva, PRMTR has played an active role in supporting developing country participation in the WTO Trade Facilitation negotiations since their launch in 2005. The Bank, through its WTO Trade Facilitation Negotiations Support Program, has contributed through targeted advocacy, knowledge products, and technical assistance missions, and by providing assistance to developing countries to assess their capacity building needs relative to the WTO agenda. The Bank, as a part of its Annex D contribution, developed the capacity building assessment tool that has now been deployed in 120 countries. Given lack of progress in the overall DDA attention is now turning to the possibility of a deal based on a smaller less ambitious series of commitments. If so, trade facilitation seems likely to be one of the issues that could proceed.
In anticipation of a final trade facilitation text being completed by the end of 2011 the Bank is now launching two new activities designed to respond to developing country concerns about the costs they will face if a new series of binding commitments are agreed. The Bank (using TFF resources) will conduct three national needs assessments in LICs to provide up to date information on the likely implementation challenges and costs developing countries will face. The results will be shared with all negotiators and the development community. In addition, the Bank will undertake a detailed study into the role RECs could realistically play in implementation of a new agreement.
The Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation continues to make strong progress in the revision of the draft consolidated negotiating text and the latest version can be found here:
Last updated on June 24, 2011