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US ratifies WTO trade facilitation pact

Staff writer |
The United States has taken the final step to implement the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), according to an announcement from the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

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The head of the USTR, Michael Froman, formally delivered the United States's letter of acceptance of the TFA to WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo in Davos, Switzerland. The US is the third WTO member to complete its domestic procedures. Singapore and Hong Kong have also submitted their letters.

The TFA will create binding commitments across all WTO members to expedite the movement, release, and clearance of goods; improve cooperation among WTO members in customs matters; and help developing countries fully implement the Agreement's terms. It is estimated that the agreement can cut trade costs by almost 14.5 percent for low-income countries, and by 10 percent for high-income countries, adding to reforms – and in particular the proposed Doha Round – to cut tax barriers to trade on a global basis.

Froman noted the importance of working towards timely entry into force of the Agreement and moving quickly so that its benefits begin to flow. "The Agreement will unlock immense commercial opportunities for all developing and developed countries alike," he said. "These benefits can only be fully realized with implementation of this Agreement. We all want to start enjoying the benefits and we hope other members will take this crucial next step as soon as possible."

Froman also outlined efforts underway to implement the Agreement. "We are working with developing countries to help support effective implementation of this Agreement," he said. "In fact, we are already considering how to best support countries who are committed to implementation – teaming up with other governments and the private sector."

Last November, WTO members adopted a protocol to add the TFA to the WTO Agreement, opening the process for individual WTO members to formally accept the Agreement.

The TFA will enter into force once two-thirds of the WTO's 160 members have completed their domestic legal procedures and submitted instruments of acceptance to the WTO.

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