The Trade Facilitation negotiations are part of the WTO Doha Development Agenda round of negotiations. The Trade Faciliation negotiations, however, started in 2004, a few years after the other negotiating areas. The basis for the negotiations is contained in Annex D of the so-called “July package”. Under this mandate, Members commit themselves to clarify and improve GATT Article V (Freedom of Transit), Article VIII (Fees and Formalities connected with Importation and Exportation), and Article X (Publication and Administration of Trade Regulations). In addition to this, the negotiations aim to strengthen technical assistance and capacity building and to improve effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues.
These negotiations may not have had the same political and media focus as the negotiations on NAMA (industrial goods) and Agriculture but the value of a TF agreement could potentially be very high in economic terms. The negotiations should be completed under the overall Doha Development Agenda timeline.
Whereas developed countries are expected to comply with a future TF Agreement upon entry into force, there is a large diversity as to the current status among developing countries. This is why a substantial part of the negotiations focus on how the individual developing countries will be able to implement the agreement. The developing countries themselves will assess whether they will need extended time to implement and if they will need technical assistance and capacity building in order to do so. Developed countries on the other hand will commit to provide the necessary technical assistance.
Norway has no defensive interests in the area of Trade Facilitation and considers the agreement to be a win-win agreement. Norway is particularly concerned with regards to the development aspect of these negotiations. There is a clear and obvious development upshot in this agreement and Norway supports the WTO Trade Facilitation Fund, which performs capacity building as well as providing for participation from Least Developed Countries in the negotiations in Geneva.