Administrative hurdles and cumbersome border procedures can account for 75 per cent of all delays to shipments. The main objective of trade facilitation is to reduce the complexities and costs associated with lengthy border procedures and controls, while maintaining efficient compliance controls. Trade facilitation contributes to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda, in particular to the integration of developing countries to global trade, tackling trade barriers and improving the efficiency of trade by reducing delays and transaction costs.
To facilitate the implementation of the technical and institutional obligations arising from the 2017 World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade Facilitation, the UNCTAD Trade Facilitation Programme UNCTAD (2020a) improves trade processes and competitiveness of developing countries, including economies in transition, Least developed country, Landlocked developing country and Small island developing States. The programme aims to support trade facilitation reforms and countries’ capacity to comply with related international and regional rules and standards, including World Trade Organization commitments.
Supporting national trade facilitation committees
By providing intensive professional training - via the Empowerment Programme for National Trade Facilitation Committees – UNCTAD helps committees fulfil their mandate and implement, in a coordinated manner, trade facilitation reforms, including the provisions of the Agreement on Trade Facilitation, and monitor implementation. UNCTAD also supplies technical assistance, including: tailored training in trade, transit and transport facilitation1; advisory services on ratification of the Agreement; and assistance in the creation and sustainable operation of national trade facilitation committees.
The UNCTAD Trade Facilitation Programme assists developing countries with the implementation of trade facilitation measures, such as needs assessments and development of national trade facilitation and project plans. UNCTAD capacity building and advisory services help countries to monitor and evaluate trade facilitation initiatives, establish legal frameworks for trade-related single windows, simplify trade procedures and train national transit coordinators. UNCTAD also supports regional trade facilitation initiatives.
The effectiveness of the programme stems from strong cooperation not only with external partners such as the World Customs Organization and the International Trade Centre, but also with other experts within UNCTAD, working at the crossroads of trade facilitation with customs automation and Sale or purchase of goods or services, conducted over computer networks by methods specifically designed for the purpose of receiving or placing of orders; it can involve business-to-business (B2B) or a business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions . or Non-tariff measures (NTMs) are policy measures other than ordinary customs tariffs that can potentially have an economic effect on international trade in goods, changing quantities traded, or prices or both such as technical barriers to trade, price-control measures, etc..
Trade facilitation – has assisted 56 countries since 2016
Since 2016, UNCTAD has developed capacity in 56 countries around the world to improve their trade facilitation. Of these, 34 countries were in Africa, 10 in Latin America and the Caribbean and 12 in Asia and Oceania. In total, 21 countries were SIDS and 17 LLDCs (see Map 1). 60 per cent of capacity development was done in English, 35 per cent in French, and 5 per cent in Portuguese.
Of those 56 countries, 45 are WTO Members. 89 per cent of them have ratified the WTO WTO members concluded negotiations at the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference on the landmark Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which entered into force on 22 February 2017 following its ratification by two-thirds of the WTO membership. The TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area . and 96 per cent have notified to the WTO Committee on Trade Facilitation their category A, B and C provisions.
The UNCTAD Trade Facilitation Programme builds on the cooperation with other related UNCTAD technical assistance programmes, such as the UNCTAD Automated System for Customs Data , which is used by the Customs administrations of over 90 countries, and UNCTAD Trade Portals. These programmes are key instruments for the implementation of various provisions of the WTO WTO members concluded negotiations at the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference on the landmark Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which entered into force on 22 February 2017 following its ratification by two-thirds of the WTO membership. The TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area ..
UNCTAD Empowerment Programme
The UNCTAD Empowerment Programme (UNCTAD, 2020b), as part of the wider Trade Facilitation programe, provides an intensive professional programme for NTFCs. The main objective is to help them implement trade facilitation reforms in a coordinated manner, including the provisions of the WTO FTA. This programme is undertaken in cooperation with a number of partners, including the International Trade Centre, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, UNECE, UNIDO, World Bank Group, World Customs Organization and the WTO.
Almost 2,500 participants trained since 2016
Since 2016, the Empowerment Programme has trained almost 2,500 people in 34 countries. Of these, 24 countries completed the full empowerment programme and 10 received other support to their NTFCs. 26 countries are African, and eight were from Latin America and the Caribbean (see Map 1). On average female participation was 42 per cent, but this ranged from as high as 73 per cent in some countries to no female paticipation in one country. 19 per cent of participants were from the private sector and 81 per cent from the public. Members of the NTFCs accounted for 57 per cent of course participants on average. 80 per cent of participants sat the exams, with 91 per cent of those successfully passing. In 2020, a further eight countries in Africa began receiving support.
|Number of||Per cent|
Empowerment programme supports NTFCs
UNCTAD evaluates the training by collecting feedback from participants. According to this feedback, 94 per cent of respondents reported using the knowledge acquired during training. 87 per cent reported improved knowledge of trade facilitation, and 78 per cent felt they were in a better position to support their NTFCs.
of trade facilitation
|Improved specific |
|Taking exams |
|Practical Exercices |
able to support NTFC
All countries make changes after training
All 34 countries reported making changes during and after taking the UNCTAD Empowerment Programme. 10 countries introduced supporting legislation, 20 drafted terms of reference, 20 prepared trade facilitation roadmaps and 26 issued notifications in preparation for the WTO TFA.
|Types of changes implemented|
|Year||Legislation||Terms Of References||Project proposal||Roadmap||Knowledge Transfer|
|Repository Case||NTFC Workplans||Notifications|
to WTO TFA
The feedback shows that the Empowerment Programme has helped countries prepare for the WTO trade facilitation negotiations and for the Agreement itself. Today, according to data gathered in the UNCTAD Repository for NTFCs (UNCTAD, 2020c), 103 countries have established NTFCs. 29 of these committees have only been established since 2016.
In 2019, UNCTAD launched a series of online courses which recapitulate some of the key lessons of the Empowerment Programme. Since their launch in September 2019, up to March 2020, the online courses had registered 3,500 users, who have benefited from over 1,000 training hours. During 2020, UNCTAD plans to make these courses available additionally in French and Portuguese.
UNCTAD’s approach to supporting NTFCs in developing economies, including LDCs, seems to be working. This is reflected in the results of a survey undertaken during the summer of 2019, where countries benefitting from the Empowerment Programme reported being more optimistic about the sustainability of their Committees. On a scale of 0 to 100, LDCs that have been supported by UNCTAD rated the sustainability of their Committees at 63, compared to 50 for those committees that were not assisted by UNCTAD.
- For more information, please see UNCTAD transport and trade facilitation newsletter (UNCTAD, 2020d).
- UNCTAD (2020a). Trade facilitation. Available at https://unctad.org/TF (accessed 6 May 2020).
- UNCTAD (2020b). Empowerment Programme for national trade facilitation bodies. Available at https://unctad.org/EPTF (accessed 6 May 2020).
- UNCTAD (2020c). Trade Facilitation Committees around the world. Available at https://unctad.org/TFC (accessed 6 May 2020).
- UNCTAD (2020d). Transport and trade facilitation newsletter. Available at http://unctad.org/transportnews (accessed 6 May 2020).
- WTO (2019). WTO trade facilitation agreement. Available at https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tradfa_e/tradfa_e.htm (accessed 6 May 2020).
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