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WTO TFA implementation: Learning from early results

Bill Gain's picture
The World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) spearheads a global effort to reduce trade costs, helping countries to connect to the global economy. Many countries have already made progress towards implementation of the TFA provisions, with support from the World Bank Group, the WTO, and other partners.
 
The central vehicle for the Bank Group’s support has been the Trade Facilitation Support Program (TFSP), launched in June 2014 by the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice. Since then, many countries have reached out to our team for technical assistance to implement the TFA. To date, we have begun working directly with 34 countries.
 
A key feature of the TFSP has been its focus on assisting countries to design practical reform strategies, including the development of detailed reform sequencing plans that accord with country priorities, available resources and local implementation capacities.
 
Some of the early results we’ve seen focus on strengthening inter-agency coordination and enhancing public-private sector dialogue on trade facilitation matters through the establishment of National Trade Facilitation Committees, the creation of single windows and trade portals to increase trade transparency, and the effective implementation of risk management in border clearance and inspections.
 
Here are some examples:

Jamaica is taking steps to strengthen its trade environment as a way to improve the ease and ways of doing business and stimulate growth. In February 2015, Jamaica formed its National Committee on Trade Facilitation, known as the Trade Facilitation Task Force (TF2). During its first year, the Task Force had fruitful consultations with its members in the public and private sectors on how to increase trade facilitation in Jamaica. These consultations laid the foundation for the creation of a Trade Facilitation Project Plan, currently in use as a guide for the execution and monitoring of Jamaica’s trade-competitiveness activities.
 
The Task Force has already achieved concrete results. It led the implementation of ASYCUDA, a computerized customs management system, through the Jamaican Customs Agency, which has established connectivity with all border agencies, making applications for licenses and permits electronic. This has resulted in a paper-less environment for trade, faster clearance times, and a more efficient business process.
 
Led by the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Zambia undertook a trade-facilitation needs assessment of its alignment with the articles of the TFA in January 2015. The assessment identified gaps and recommendations for addressing them. This led to Zambia ratifying the TFA on December 15, 2015. As part of its action plan, the Government of Zambia began an ambitious reform agenda that extended automation from the Zambia Revenue Authority to other trade related agencies, established a National Trade Facilitation Committee, improved border agency coordination, and implemented risk management for inspections.
 
The implementation of the risk management program began at the Zambia Revenue Authority, which reduced inspection rates for imported cargo to 40%, resulting in less time for the private sector to clear cargo. The program was then extended to the Zambia Bureau of Standards, which has led to improvements in transparency and accountability, with approximately a 40% increase in both the consignments recorded and fees collected.
 
We’re particularly proud of both these countries, and several others across the globe that are working toward similar goals.
 
To acknowledge these early achievements and to share learning amongst WTO countries, the World Bank Group and the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF) launched a specialist SmartLessons Competition. SmartLessons are short papers which provide first-hand accounts of lessons learned in development operations.
 
WTO member countries were invited to share their experiences and lessons learned (both successes and challenges) in implementing trade facilitation reforms to align with the measures outlined in the WTO TFA.  We received a total of 13 submissions from member countries on a variety of topics. A panel of judges both from the Bank Group and WTO evaluated the SmartLessons and shortlisted six finalists: Botswana, Jamaica, Malawi, Montenegro, Rwanda, and Zambia.
 
The finalists were invited to present their respective case studies in an informal TED-style session at the World Trade Organization’s Sixth Global Review of Aid for Trade. Jamaica and Zambia were announced as joint winners.
 
 
 
Finalists in the SmartLessons Competition for Trade Facilitation accept their awards in Geneva at the Aid for Trade Global Review.
Finalists in the SmartLessons Competition for Trade Facilitation accept their awards in Geneva at the Aid for Trade Global Review. Photo Credit: World Bank


This is the first in a series of SmartLessons competitions that will follow in the coming three to five years. A SmartBook, a compilation of the best SmartLessons, will be published after the competition and serve as a quick reference guide for other WTO member countries. 

Watch the video of the SmartLessons case study presentations, from the Aid for Trade Global Forum: