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USTR Froman Welcomes WTO Decision on Trade Facilitation Agreement

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has taken decisions that will enable full implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), the WTO’s first multilateral trade agreement in its 20-year history. The trade agreement will standardize customs rules, reduce trade barriers and eliminate border transaction costs, helping to keep apparel and footwear costs at bay.

U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman noted his satisfaction over the decision in a statement late last week.

“The WTO has taken a critical step forward by breaking the impasse that has prevailed since July. I am pleased that the United States was able to work with India and other WTO members to find an approach that preserved the letter and spirit of the package of decisions reached at last year’s Bali Ministerial Conference,” he said.

For a time, it seemed the agreement would not be realized as it was put into question in July when a handful of WTO member countries, including India, blocked adoption of the Protocol of Amendment for the TFA. The U.S. and India worked to break the impasse and agreed to extend the deadline for developing a work program covering all remaining issues in the Doha Round of global trade negotiations.

“The Trade Facilitation Agreement has the potential to fundamentally reform global customs practices and substantially reduce the costs and time associated with goods crossing borders. It’s a perfect example of how breaking down barriers to trade can unlock new opportunities for developed and developing countries alike, and it’s a particularly important win for small- and medium-sized businesses in all countries,” Froman said. “With this win under the WTO’s belt, we can once again focus our efforts on revitalizing the organization’s core negotiating functions.”