Trade Facilitation Agreement

Finally--Faster, Cheaper Movement of Goods

Finally-some very good news on the trade front! The long-stuck World Trade Agreement (WTO) arrangements on trade facilitation have been approved by just enough members to enter into force. The Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) was struck in Bali in December 2013.  It is an unusual deal in the WTO that provides more flexibilities to members than we normally see.  But the overall objective is to move goods faster and cheaper across borders.  The bottom line benefits for growth could be larger than tariff cuts. Trade facilitation is not the sexiest sounding topic.  Eyes tend to glaze over whenever it gets mentioned.  But the ability to move cargo across borders faster and cheaper is extremely important.  Obstacles at the border are unpleasant for bigger firms and can be catastrophic for smaller companies. Consumers pay more for products than necessary.

What Does 2017 Mean for the WTO?

Last year ended with a whimper for the World Trade Organization (WTO).  The multilateral trade institution had hoped for several big announcements that would show the organization could do more than just fight trade disputes.  But as the last day fell in 2016, the countdown on the number of countries that have ratified with Bali Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) remained stubbornly stuck.  For the agreement to come into force, 108 members have to ratify it.  The countdown has now been changed to show that only six more ratifications are needed before TFA comes into force.