U.S Trade Representative Michael Froman is holding out hope that India and a few other countries blocking implementation of the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement reached last year in Bali will reconsider their position before today’s midnight deadline.
“I certainly encourage the other countries who are currently holding up that agreement – it’s a very small number of countries who’ve expressed their willingness to break that consensus – I encourage them to come back to the table and support the consensus,” Ambassador Froman said at a Senate Finance Committee hearing yesterday. In his written testimony, Ambassador Froman noted that the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement is part of a coordinated trade and development strategy for Africa in particular. The Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) estimates that full implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement would reduce trading costs by more than 14% for developing countries and by more than 15% for lower middle-income countries.
The NAM strongly supports implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, in accordance with the timeline agreed upon in Bali. An important deadline for the first phase of implementation comes today, with the July 31 deadline for the WTO’s General Council to accept notifications of “Category A” commitments, adopt the Protocol of Amendment, and open the Protocol for acceptance. Unfortunately, a meeting of the WTO Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation adjourned earlier this month without consensus on a Protocol of Amendment. WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo has scheduled an informal meeting with the heads of all 160 delegations for 9 p.m. in Geneva (3 p.m. in Washington, D.C.). The WTO expects to issue a statement after the meeting.
On July 17, the NAM was joined by eight other trade associations in sending a letter to G20 Trade Ministers in support of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. In the Chairman’s Summary of the G20 Trade Ministers meeting on July 19, Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said “We undertook to show leadership in our support for the full implementation of all elements of the Bali outcome agreed at the 9th WTO Ministerial Conference in December 2013, including the Agreement on Trade Facilitation, consistent with the agreed timelines. We agreed this is critical to securing a strong future for the multilateral trading system. We reaffirmed the importance of capacity building to help developing countries implement their commitments.”
Ahead of the G20 Trade Ministers meeting, India’s trade ministry said it would be “difficult” for the country to support the TFA Protocol unless it is satisfied that adequate emphasis is being placed on negotiations about food security. In a statement to Reuters after the G20 meeting, WTO Ambassador Michael Punke said that “India clearly and forcefully expressed its concern that work proceed on all fronts, including food stockpiling, and received assurances that all G20 members are committed to the full implementation of all Bali agreements on the agreed timetables.”