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Macao/WTO: Ratification of Trade Facilitation Agreement

(Apr. 18, 2016) On April 11, 2016, Macao, China deposited with the World Trade Organization (WTO) Secretariat its instrument of acceptance of the new WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), becoming the 72nd WTO Member State to ratify the Agreement.  The TFA will enter into force upon ratification by two-thirds of the WTO Member States, or 108 of the WTO’s current 162 total membership, of a Protocol of Amendment and notification to the WTO of their acceptance of the Protocol.  (Macao, China Ratifies Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) (Apr. 11, 2016), Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF) website; Members and Observers, WTO website (last visited Apr. 14, 2016).) China, Hong Kong China, and Chinese Taipei are among the other Asian jurisdictions that have already accepted the TFA. (Macao, China Latest WTO Member to Ratify Trade Facilitation Agreement, WTO website (Apr. 11, 2016).)

About the TFA and TFAF

The TFA, which was concluded in December 2013 at the WTO ministerial conference in Bali, “contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit” and also “measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues [and] … for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.” (Id; The Trade Facilitation Agreement, supra.)  According to the WTO,

[t]he TFA broke new ground for developing and least-developed countries in the way it will be implemented. For the first time in WTO history, the requirement to implement the Agreement was directly linked to the capacity of the country to do so.  In addition, the Agreement states that assistance and support should be provided to help them achieve that capacity. (Id.)

At the request of such countries, the WTO also created a Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility to help them obtain the necessary assistance for reaping the full benefits of the Agreement and to succeed in fully implementing it. (Id.)  The Facility was formally launched on July 22, 2014, and was operational on November 27, 2014.  (About the Facility, TFAF website (last visited Apr. 14, 2016).)

Macao’s Notification 

Macao had submitted its Category A notification to the WTO – i.e., notification of the provisions it would implement by the time the Agreement enters into force – in November 2014; Macao indicated that “it intends to implement all but four of the TFA provisions” upon the TFA’s entry into force. (Id.; “Section II,” The Trade Facilitation Agreement, TFAF website (last visited Apr. 14, 2016) (click on “Download the Agreement in Full” to view whole text).) The four provisions that Macao will not implement by the time the TFA becomes effective are article 7, paragraph 4, on risk management; article 7, paragraph 5, on post-clearance audit; article 9 on movement of goods intended for import under customs control; and article 10, paragraph 4, on a single window.  (Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation, Notification of Category A Commitments Under the Agreement on Trade Facilitation: Communication from Macao, China (Nov. 25, 2014), WTO website (click on “English” for PDF text in English.)

A single window’s purpose is “to provide a platform and processes for a paperless (electronic) exchange of trade information between participants in the trade process, largely accomplished through a single electronic lodgement.” (United Nations Economic And Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Key Factors in Establishing Single Windows for Handling Import/Export Procedures and Formalities: Trade Facilitation and the Single Window, E/ESCWA/EDGD/2011/5 (Nov. 10, 2011), available at WTO website.) It “enables traders to submit documentation and/or data requirements for importation, exportation, or transit of goods through a single entry point to the participating authorities or agencies,” and to notify the applicants in a timely manner of the results of the examination of the documentation/data by the participating authorities or agencies.  (WTO TFA Article 10.4: Single Window, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific website (last visited Apr. 14, 2016).)