The launching of negotiations on trade facilitation

As part of the “July Package”, the General Council on 1 August 2004 decided by explicit consensus to commence negotiations on trade facilitation. The mandate for these negotiations is set out in Annex D (“Modalities for Negotiations on Trade Facilitation”) of the “July Package”.

Members agreed that the negotiations “shall aim to clarify and improve relevant aspects of Articles V, VIII and X of the GATT 1994 with a view to further expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit”.

Negotiations also aim at “enhancing technical assistance and support for capacity building in this area,” and at developing “provisions for effective cooperation between customs or any other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues”. The results “shall take fully into account the principle of special and differential treatment for developing and least-developed countries”. It was further agreed that these countries would not be obliged “to undertake investments in infrastructure projects beyond their means”.

On 12 October 2004, the Trade Negotiations Committee established the Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation and appointed Ambassador Muhamad Noor of Malaysia as its Chairperson.

Soon thereafter, the newly established Negotiating Group agreed on a Work Plan and a schedule of meetings at its first meeting.

A second meeting took place on 22-23 November 2004, allowing Members to benefit from an educational and stock-taking process while also offering the opportunity to contribute on the agreed agenda of the Negotiating Group. The WTO Secretariat briefed delegates on the relevant GATT Articles and technical assistance related to trade facilitation. UNCTAD, the World Customs Organization, the World Bank and the OECD gave briefings on the work they are carrying out in this area.

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