Members reviewed a record number of over 50 new notifications since the last Committee meeting in February. They were assisted by a WTO Secretariat update on the state of the ratification and notification process, which showed that 144 or almost 90 per cent of all members have already deposited a ratification instrument. The most recent ratifications were from Egypt, Morocco and Angola. The Agreement entered into force on 22 February 2017 when the WTO crossed the required threshold of 110 member ratifications.
Several delegations drew attention to outstanding notifications, especially in the area of implementation. Reference was made to an upcoming deadline for the submission of definitive dates for implementing measures requiring capacity building support. The United States referred to this date as the final deadline for developing country members to fully utilize the flexibilities provided in the TFA. Under the Agreement, developing and least-developed countries (LDCs) can self-designate which provisions they will implement either immediately (Category A), after a transition period (Category B), or upon receiving assistance and support for capacity building (Category C) – but they are required to communicate their choices within stipulated timeframes.
According to those deadlines, developing country members have to provide definitive implementation dates for their category C designations no later than 22 August 2019. Losing out on the possibility to take advantage of the unique flexibilities provided by the Agreement would be very unfortunate, the United States remarked. The European Union also highlighted the importance of providing the outstanding notifications on time and appealed to both donor members and development partners to work together to ensure capacity building needs are well assessed. China equally highlighted the upcoming deadline and called on members with difficulties to discuss them in the Committee.
Saint Lucia, speaking on behalf of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, expressed concern that, despite best efforts, difficulties remained in making realistic estimations of implementation dates as well as in accessing technical assistance and capacity building support. Challenges in securing assistance were also reported by Sri Lanka and a few other members.
A second part of the meeting was dedicated to experience sharing where members compared notes on ongoing work to fulfil certain transparency obligations and to set up National Trade Facilitation Committees. Representatives of the WTO TFA Facilityand the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation updated members on completed and upcoming projects.
The Committee also elected its new chair, Ambassador Mohammad Qurban Haqjo, (Afghanistan), and agreed on rules of procedure
for the Committee based on a proposal by Argentina, Japan, Norway and Paraguay.
The next meeting of the Committee will be on 15 October followed by a dedicated session on technical assistance on 16 October.