India opposes US, Brazil push for fast implementation of trade facilitation measures at WTO

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on October 21, 2020

Centre says that more than 73% of its own TFA commitments implemented, Washington shows appreciation

India has opposed suggestions made by the US, Brazil and Colombia at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) of placing binding commitments on members for early implementation of provisions under the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) at the time of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, a Geneva-based trade official has said.

The country, however, declared that it was ahead of schedule in its own implementation of commitments made, at the meeting of the WTO Committee on Trade Facilitation, on Tuesday.

“New Delhi informed the WTO that it was ahead of the originally scheduled dates for implementation of many of its TFA commitments and had put in place more than 73 per cent of the measures that it had promised to do. But it was not in favour of putting pressure on countries to implement their schedule of commitments,” the official told BusinessLine.

The TFA, concluded at the WTO’s Bali Ministerial Conference in 2013 and in force since 2017, focuses on measures 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 allowed developing and least-developed countries to group its commitments into three categories, with the first category to be implemented in the beginning and the rest following with a lag.

Cross border trade

At the WTO meeting on trade facilitation, the US, Brazil and Colombia, later joined by Japan, argued that cross-border trade was a critical channel for ensuring essential products reached the needy, especially at the time of the pandemic, and the TFA can play a critical role in keeping those goods moving across borders. The countries stressed that they were not asking for new commitments to be undertaken by WTO members but only wanted that implementation of the commitments should be accelerated, the official said.

In response, India said that members should be the best judge for determining when they should be implementing their commitments and there must not be any attempt in imposing binding commitments on them.

US all praise for India

Showing appreciation for India’s implementation of TFA commitments, the US said that measures such as improving transparency in customs practices and allowing for the processing of goods before arrival, will have an immediate impact on traders. The US also said that India was an example of how the TFA was helping traders respond to the Covid pandemic, according to the official.

India’s rate of implementation of measures at 73 per cent is much higher than the average of just over 66 per cent for the entire WTO membership. Fifteen developing country members have already achieved 100 per cent implementation of the TFA (developed countries were required to ensure full implementation when the TFA entered into force).

Published on October 21, 2020

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