United Arab Emirates ratifies Trade Facilitation Agreement

The United Arab Emirates has become the first WTO member from the Arab region to ratify the new Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). The UAE deposited its instrument of acceptance with the WTO Secretariat on 18 April.

During a ceremony organized at WTO headquarters, Ambassador Obaid Salem Al Zaabi, Permanent Representative of the UAE to the WTO, and Abdelsalam M. Al Ali, Director of the UAE Office to the WTO in Geneva, were welcomed by Director-General Roberto Azevêdo.

In a statement, the UAE said it “has taken the lead to ratify the TFA out of its firm belief that such an agreement, once fully implemented, will boost global trade by expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit.”

DG Azevêdo saluted the UAE’s ratification of the Agreement:  “The TFA will play an important role in enhancing growth and development in the UAE and around the world,” he said. “I am delighted to receive this ratification today. I hope that it will inspire others in the region to accelerate their ratification processes.”

During a brief visit to the Middle East in early March, DG Azevêdo underscored that the TFA can have a big impact in reducing the time and cost of moving goods across borders, and supporting economic diversification in the region.

Concluded at the WTO’s 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference, the TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. 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 will enter into force once two-thirds of the WTO membership has formally accepted the Agreement. The UAE is the 74th WTO member to accept the TFA, meaning that two-thirds of the acceptances needed for entry into force have now been received.

In May 2015 the UAE submitted its Category A notification to the WTO indicating that it intends to implement most of the TFA provisions upon entry into force of the Agreement.

In addition to the UAE, the following WTO members have also accepted the TFA: 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, Togo, Thailand, the European Union (on behalf of its 28 member states), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Pakistan, Panama, Guyana, Côte d’Ivoire, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Kenya, Myanmar, Norway, Viet Nam, Brunei, Ukraine, Zambia, Lesotho, Georgia, Seychelles, Jamaica, Mali, Cambodia and Paraguay, Turkey, Brazil and Macao China.

The TFA broke new ground for developing and least-developed 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.

A Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF) was also created at the request of developing and least-developed country 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.

Implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) has the potential to increase global merchandise exports by up to $1 trillion per annum, according to the WTO’s flagship World Trade Report released on 26 October 2015.  Significantly, the Report also found that developing countries will benefit significantly from the TFA, capturing more than half of the available gains.