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Spurring global growth via a new Trade Facilitation Agreement

Klaus Tilmes's picture

As the global economy struggles to emerge from its chronic slow-growth stall, policymakers are increasingly focused on an energetic opportunity to help jump-start economic growth: the adoption of the landmark Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) that is now nearing ratification and implementation. By helping reduce trade costs and by helping enhance customs and border agency cooperation, a recent WTO report has found, the successful implementation of the TFA’s provisions could boost developing-country exports by between $170 billion and $730 billion per year. The OECD has calculated that the implementation of the TFA could reduce worldwide trade costs by between 12.5 percent and 17.5 percent.
 
Buoying the spirits of those who hailed the broad support for TFA at December’s ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Nairobi, 68 countries have already ratified the agreement. The number of county-by-country ratifications is fast approaching the total of 107 required for the TFA to go into effect. Adopted in December 2013 at the WTO’s conference in Bali, the TFA is the WTO’s first-ever multilateral accord, having won approval from all 162 WTO member nations. The agreement contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods traveling across borders. It also sets out measures to promote cooperation among customs and border authorities on customs compliance issues.

A recent seminar at the World Bank Group – convened by the Trade Facilitation Support Program (TFSP) of the Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice (T&C) – explored the provisions of the TFA and learned of the increasingly active role of the private sector in supporting the TFA’s enactment. Awareness and momentum are building as a new coalition of private-sector firms – the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation – mobilizes business support for TFA’s effort to speed and strengthen cross-border commerce. As the seminar heard from Norm Schenk, who serves as the chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) Commission on Customs and Trade Facilitation, members of the alliance plan to meet in Washington this week to explore strategies for promoting the TFA’s adoption.

In the lead up to Nairobi, is there hope for global trade governance?

Anabel Gonzalez's picture
 World Trade Organization


The World Bank Group has often argued that delivering outcomes in WTO negotiations around the core issues of the Doha Round is critically important for developing countries. Let’s take one example: with three-quarters of the world’s extreme poor living in rural areas, fulfilling the Doha Round mandate on agriculture could make a real contribution to the Bank Group’s goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.
 
But recent news reports on global trade talks suggest that WTO Members are finding it hard to develop a shared vision on key issues and are unlikely to deliver significant progress at the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi from December 15-18. Efforts are being made to produce outcomes on important issues like export competition in agriculture but large gaps remain only one week before the Ministerial Conference.
 
This continued impasse on the Doha Round is indeed a significant missed opportunity, but should this be cause for despair about the future of global trade governance? We don’t think so. There have been developments in the global trade agenda that are worthy of our attention, which should provide some hope in the lead-up to the Nairobi conference that with political will, it is possible to move forward. Here are five of these developments:  
 

Growth and development: Why openness to trade is necessary but not sufficient

Selina Jackson's picture
Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank


We are experiencing a battle of ideas regarding the state of the global economy and prospects for growth. Larry Summers has been leading the group of economists proclaiming that the world entered an era of secular stagnation since the global financial crisis. On the other end, Standard Chartered Bank and other players have been arguing that we are experiencing an economic super cycle—defined as average growth of around 3.5 percent from 2000-2030—due to strong growth in emerging markets and fueled by a global demographic dividend.

There is not even agreement on the factors that drive global growth and development. While parts of the Americas and Asia just concluded the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and recent World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements on trade facilitation and information technology products show progress is possible, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations between the U.S. and the EU remain highly controversial and the upcoming WTO Ministerial in Nairobi will likely underwhelm. 

However, if you look at the facts, the situation is very clear:

How can G20 trade policies benefit developing countries?

Michele Ruta's picture
Cambodia garment factory (Chhor Sokunthea / World Bank)


A key topic for the G20 this year is what can be done to boost inclusiveness in the global economy. Ministers and officials, with advice from the World Bank Group and others, have been looking into what policies they can adopt to maximize the development prospects of lower income countries outside the G20 (what the Turkish Presidency has termed “low-income developing countries” -LIDCs). A critical area of action is in trade – an area where G20 countries have asked the Bank Group to survey the current situation and provide recommendations.

In our work, we found that the value of LIDC imports and exports has increased substantially over the last decade, but it still represents only between 3 and 4% of world trade (Figure 1). The share of LIDC exports in the global services market is similarly low and has remained stagnant during the last 3 decades. Although there are some exceptions – Vietnam and the Philippines – LIDCs are poorly integrated into global value chains (GVCs) – they constitute only 3% of world imports in parts and components.

G20 countries are the main trading partners of LIDCs. Around 70% of imports of LIDCs come from the G20 and around 80% of LIDC exports are directed to the G20. Trade costs between LIDCs and any G20 country, however, are systematically higher than the trade costs between G20 countries or other non-LIDCs and any G20 country (Figure 2).


Naturally, many domestic factors that inhibit the productive capacity of LIDCs contribute to the low connectivity of LIDCs to GVCs and world trade more generally. However, trade policies of G20 members can help low-income developing countries integrate in the world economy. In our analysis for the G20 we reviewed key G20 trade policies and how they could be improved to benefit LIDCs.

Exploring the nexus between trade policy and disaster response

Selina Jackson's picture
 Nugroho Nurdikiawan Sunjoyo/World Bank


Strong trade connectivity can help disaster response and recovery by ensuring that humanitarian relief goods and services get to where they are needed when disaster strikes.  Trade policy measures, however, can sometimes have adverse effects.  Research led by the World Bank highlights that a common complaint of the humanitarian community is that customs procedures can delay disaster response, leaving life-saving goods stuck at borders.  Other measures such as standards conformity procedures, certification processes for medicines, and work permits for humanitarian professionals can slow the delivery of needed relief items.  Border closures can exacerbate situations already marked by human tragedy and unlock   full-scale economic crises. 
 
This nexus between trade policy and humanitarian response was discussed at an event organized jointly by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the World Bank Group and World Trade Organization at the 5th Global Review of Aid for Trade on June 30 in Geneva.  Among the steps suggested to address concerns were rigorous disaster planning; better coordination between humanitarian actors, implementation of the WTO's Trade Facilitation Agreement and better recognition of the role of services.  

Making Trade More Inclusive

Anabel Gonzalez's picture

Also available in: Français

Photo Credit: Arne Hoel, World Bank Group

This week, I will be joining a panel of women in trade at the World Trade Organization’s Public Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. Along with Lilianne Ploumen, Trade Minister from the Netherlands; Yuejiao Zhang of China’s International Trade and Economic Arbitration Commission; former United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab; and Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs; we will be discussing how to make trade work more inclusively. For me, the focus will be how to make trade work more inclusively for the poor living in developing countries.

Waiting on a waiver - what the WTO's new services initiative could mean for LDCs

Marcus Bartley Johns's picture

Workers sort, repack, and ship goods in Al Obaied Crop Market, North Kordofan, Sudan. Source - Salahaldeen Nadir/World BankThe World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) has been getting a great deal of attention since it was finalized at the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference– and rightly so. As we’ve written before on this blog, trade facilitation is a powerful driver of increased competitiveness and trade performance in developing countries.
 
But last month, the spotlight at the WTO was on another important decision from Bali—how to maximize the impact of a waiver to support exports of services from Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

At a meeting on February 5, around 30 WTO Members, covering most major export markets for LDCs, set out in concrete terms what preferences they could provide. The preferences cover a wide range of services and modes of supply, as well as regulatory issues that LDCs have identified in a “collective request” to other WTO Members. 

At the Heart of the Matter: Improved Market Access to Food Supplies

Bill Gain's picture
Hi-Las workers weighing and sizing mangoes. Source -

At the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference held in Bali on December 2013, all WTO members reached an agreement on trade facilitation and a compromise on food security issues, a contentious topic which had previously stalled talks during the 2008 Doha Development Round. The “Bali Package,” as it came to be known, was quickly heralded as an important milestone, reaffirming the legitimacy of multilateral trade negotiations while simultaneously recognizing the significant development benefits of reducing the time and costs to trade.

Seven months after the Bali Ministerial Conference, however, the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) has yet to be ratified as India is concerned that insufficient attention has been given to the issue of food subsidies and the stockpiling of grains. India maintains that agreements on the food security issue must be in concert with the TFA.
 
Despite the current impasse in implementing the Bali decisions, the food security concern at the heart of the matter sheds light on the importance of improving the agribusiness supply chains of developing countries to ensure maximum efficiencies. Consider the fact that in 2014, farmers will produce approximately 2.5 billion tons of food. Yet, 1.3 billion tons are lost or wasted each year between farm and fork, while 805 million people suffer from chronic hunger.

The WTO Environmental Goods Agreement: Why Even A Small Step Forward Is a Good Step

Miles McKenna's picture

Will the WTO be the first global organization to take action on climate change? Source - VerticalarrayInternational trade has a critical role to play in environmental protection and the effort to mitigate climate change. While it certainly isn’t always framed this way, it is important to realize that increased trade and economic growth are not necessarily incompatible with a cleaner environment and a healthier climate.

If we are going to move away from dirty fossil fuels and inefficient energy processes at a rate necessary to limit the likely devastating results of a warmer planet, then we need enabling policies in place—especially when it comes to trade policy.

That’s why, this week, a group of 14 World Trade Organization (WTO) Members are meeting to begin the second round of negotiations on the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA)—an effort aimed at liberalizing trade in products that help make our world cleaner and greener.
 

The Trade Stakes of WTO Disputes

Chad P Bown's picture

The WTO will soon initiate its 500th formal dispute, and discussions of such international litigation are now a media mainstay. Last Thursday, for example, the WTO’s Appellate Body released its latest ruling, upholding most of a set of legal challenges to China’s use of export restrictions on “rare earth” materials, a set of intermediate inputs important for green technologies such as wind turbines, batteries for gas-electric hybrid cars, etc. Other recent examples of formal WTO litigation in the news include the EU’s challenge to Russia’s import restrictions on vans, the US’s challenge to Chinese barriers to autos, and Canada’s and Norway’s challenges to an EU ban on trade in seal products.


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