Substantive Obligations of the Agreement

The substantial trade facilitation measures are contained in Article 1-12 of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). They cover a variety of areas and establish either clear obligations to adopt specific practices, to conform to the provisions spelled out in the agreement, or prohibit certain practices.
To learn more about the substantive obligations of the Agreement, please consult the original text. Below is a brief summary of the provisions.
Articles 1-12 deal with:

  • The Relationship between government authorities and traders and other interested parties;
  • Customs clearance procedures;
  • Non-Customs control measures;
  • Administrative simplification;
  • Use of information technology for processing and data exchange;
  • Agency cooperation and cross-border cooperation;
  • Transit traffic; and
  • Customs cooperation.

On the relationship between government authorities and traders and other interested parties the WTO TFA establishes obligations to provide access to specific public information, to hold consultative meetings between government agencies and interested parties, to grant an opportunity for third parties to comment on project of laws prior to their adoption, and to ensure opportunities for administrative or judicial review of government decisions (Article 1, 2 and 4).

WTO members also have to adopt specific customs clearance procedures aiming at expediting clearance, simplifying formalities, and improving the efficiency of control measures. (Article 3, 7, 9, 10). The WTO TFA establishes the obligations to introduce procedures for advance rulings on tariff classification and origin, to adopt risk management and post-clearance audit, to enable pre arrival processing of import relevant documentation, inland clearance, and e- payment of Customs debt and/ or fees.
With regards to non-Customs control measures (Article 5 and 10) the WTO TFA contains rules regarding the priority treatment for perishable goods, food emergency notification system, and access to second sample test in case of adverse findings. The Agreement also calls for taking action to improve inter-agency cooperation and requires Governments to seek cross-border cooperation to streamline border crossing formalities.
On administrative simplification and the use of information technology the Agreement encourages members to establish a Single Window for trade that constitutes a single entry point for clearance relevant data and the processing therefore. It furthermore requests Members to review and simplify their formalities and document requirements, to align their procedures and formalities to international standards and to use wherever possible IT systems to support processing and filing of information, including in electronic format, for trade procedures. (Article 10). In addition, the Agreement clarifies the amount and nature of the fees and charges that can be levied in connection with the importation, exportation and transit of goods, and establishes disciplines regarding the amount, imposition and collection of penalties for offences (Article 6).
Article 11 seeks to simplify transit Customs procedures and to remove unnecessary barriers to the movement of goods in transit. The Agreements establishes general requirements for managing financial sureties and re-affirms that he principle of equal treatment of goods that have been in transit and those that not been in transit.

Finally, Article 12 of the Agreement introduces a scope and disciplines for information exchange amongst Customs administration for compliance and law enforcement. The exchange of information is limited to specific cases and is made subject to conditions that have to be fulfilled by the requesting and supplying administration, including confidentiality obligations that have to be respected.

WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation and TF Instruments

Please click HERE for an overview of the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation and a link to instruments (e.g. conventions, standards, recommendations and guidelines) that support the implementation of the measures and provisions contained in the text.