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Taxation and Customs Union

Trade Facilitation

European exporters and importers are responsible for 22% of world trade. Simple, modern and harmonised customs-procedures are crucial to making international trade as efficient as possible.

The Trade Facilitation Agreement of the WTO

The WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA), the most significant trade deal since the establishment of the World Trade Organisation in 1995, has entered into force on February 22nd of 2017.

This agreement aims to simplify and clarify international import and export procedures, customs formalities and transit requirements.

It will make trade-related administration easier and less costly and will also help improve transparency, increase possibilities for small and medium-sized companies to participate in global value chains, and reduce the scope for corruption.

The European Union promotes and plays a leading role in trade facilitation by:

  • ensuring forward looking implementation of the TFA;
  • acting both as an example to follow and an engine for further progress;
  • continuing to provide technical assistance and capacity building to help others meet their obligations.

For more details see the conclusions of the Workshops on the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement:

Background of the Trade Facilitation Agreement

Trade facilitation was added to the WTO agenda in December 1996. WTO members adopted on 14 November 2001 a declaration that included a mandate for negotiations in the area of trade facilitation.

WTO Mandate as agreed in Doha on 14-11-2001
Recognizing the case for further expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit, and the need for enhanced technical assistance and capacity building in this area, we agree that negotiations will take place after the Fifth Session of the Ministerial Conference […]We commit ourselves to ensuring adequate technical assistance and support for capacity building in this area.

The Negotiating Group on trade facilitation was established on 12 October 2004. WTO members concluded the negotiations on the Trade Facilitation Agreement at the Bali Ministerial Conference on 7 December 2013, as part of a wider “Bali Package”.

The TFA entered into force on 22 February 2017 after it had been ratified by 112 WTO members.

Trade Facilitation and Customs – working with third countries

Facilitation and customs increasingly feature in agreements with 3rd countries, covering such matters as:

  • simplification of requirements and formalities in respect of the release and clearance of goods, including, collaboration on the development of procedures enabling the submission of import or export data to a single agency,
  • improved working methods and ensuring transparency and efficiency of customs operations,
  • reduction, simplification and standardisation of data in the documentation required by customs,
  • application of modern customs techniques, including risk assessment, simplified procedures for entry and release of goods, post release controls, and company audit methods,

See for example: Agreement establishing an association between the European Community and its Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Chile, on the other part (Final act)

Working with specialist international organisations

The European Commission actively participates in, and works with international organisations such as the World Customs Organisation (WCO) on customs and trade issues.

Trade Facilitation and Technical Assistance

The European Commission provides advice on technical assistance and capacity building projects and programmes. Trade Facilitation is one priority area explicitly mentioned in the 2012 Communication on "Trade, growth and development ".

This includes assistance and advice on the design and management of customs and tax administrations (e.g. blueprints), and also includes resources for consultation, planning, and co-ordination of actions in this field.