Article 8: Border Agency Cooperation

Members shall enhance cooperation among domestic agencies and between bordering countries’ control agencies to facilitate trade

What is covered?

Core obligation

The article mandates cooperation between border regulatory agencies on two levels: national and international.

National cooperation

In order to facilitate trade, all national authorities and agencies responsible for border controls and procedures dealing with importation, exportation and transit of goods (such as those issuing licences and certificates, testing laboratories etc.) should cooperate with one another and coordinate their activities in order to provide a better end-to-end experience for traders.

For example, the current business processes may require a trader to obtain a certificate from one agency and, after this is done, apply for a licence from another. After streamlining the procedures, both agencies could coordinate their activities to provide the trader with both documents without the need for separate applications and interventions. The same applies to inspection procedures where all national agencies wanting to physically inspect the goods can do it at the same time rather than carrying these out one after the other. The Measure does not state explicitly as to what type of cooperation can be covered under this provision which gives the Members the flexibility to implement in accordance to their needs.

Shared border cooperation

The Agreement also requires Members sharing a common border to cooperate, to the extent possible and practicable, with one another with the overarching aim of facilitating trade. While the following list of cooperation and coordination steps may be used as a starting point, countries are encouraged to explore other areas where they can contribute to improve traders’ experience.

  • Alignment of working days and hours;
  • Alignment of procedures and formalities;
  • Development and sharing of common facilities;
  • Joint controls;
  • Establishment of one stop border post control.

Obviously, the “shared border obligation” does not apply to Members who do not share a common border with a neighbouring country, e.g. independent island States like the Pacific Island nations (*).

What is not covered?

While it is an obligation for national border regulatory agencies to cooperate with one another, the scope of the cooperation is not defined under this Measure and the implementation modalities have been left to the discretion of the Members based on their individual needs and priorities.

As for cooperation within jurisdictions, there is no manifest requirement for harmonization of procedures and documentation requirements for different agencies that are involved in importation, exportation and transit of goods. However, when seen in conjunction with other Measures of the Agreement and with best international practices, it would certainly be most useful to harmonize them prior to setting up cooperation mechanisms.

Under the shared border obligation, the examples of cooperation given are only indicative and countries can agree on what additional measures are needed to ensure that trade facilitation is optimised. Additionally, under the responsibility for shared border cooperation, there is no obligation to establish expedited processes and separate infrastructure for transit or details of information that is exchanged between countries.

For both national and shared border cooperation, involvement of the private sector and joint sessions with national and cross border agencies (to understand current problems and shortcomings in processes and infrastructure) can help define the scope of cooperation that will more aptly apply on a case-by-case basis. However, this is not expressly covered under the Measure.

(*) Such WTO members include Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu.

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