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The landmark WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) was agreed by Trade Ministers in Bali in December 2013. The TFA aims to increase trade and economic growth through the four principles of simplification, standardisation, harmonisation and transparency of procedures so that it reduces the time and cost associated with doing trade. In the run up to the WTO Ministerial in Bali, the Saana Institute hosted a seminar which brought together a distinguished group of key stakeholders to focus specifically on how African and Asian countries could be most effectively supported to ensure they capture the gains from the WTO TFA.

The TFA will come into effect once two-thirds of member states have ratified it and a lot of work still lies ahead to ensure successful implementation. The TFA provides for ‘Special and Differential Treatment’ whereby WTO Member States are allowed to determine the extent and schedule of implementation of the obligations and provisions depending on the Members’ implementation capacity. The obligations and provisions are grouped into three categories, namely, Category A being those that could be implemented readily and immediately upon the TFA coming into force, Category B being those that require a transitional period, and finally Category C being those that require a transitional period as well as the provision of technical assistance and capacity building.

This week Kenya and Tanzania became the 12th and 13th AU member states to start the process of implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement by submitting their Category A notifications. The other 11 AU member states to submit their WTO TFA Category A notifications so far are:

  • Botswana
  • Burundi
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • Egypt
  • Gabon
  • Mauritius
  • Niger
  • Rwanda
  • Republic of Congo
  • Senegal
  • Tunisia

Who will be next?
From our contacts with AU member states recently, we expect several more to submit their Category A notifications in the coming weeks – potentially Uganda, Zambia and Ghana could be among the next wave. It will also be important to watch for which African countries ratify the WTO TFA, and the notifications they make under Category B and Category C. The Saana Institute will be carefully following the progress of AU member states in implementing the WTO TFA, so please follow us on Twitter to keep up with the latest news.

Want more information?
For more information about the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, including progress on implementation, check out the following online resources:

The WTO Secretariat’s Trade Facilitation webpage.

The International Trade Centre’s Business Guide for Developing Countries on the WTO TFA.

The World Customs Organization’s dedicated webpage on the WTO TFA.