MEPs on Wednesday's vote backed a decision for the EU to join the World Trade organization’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement, thereby ratifying it on behalf of the EU. The deal aims to ease customs procedures, reduce border delays and cut costs for exporters, in particular small firms and producers in developing countries, and, once implemented, could cut the costs of trade by between 12.5% and 17.5%.
"The Trade Facilitation Agreement is key for boosting international trade and economic development. It will help reduce bureaucracy and corruption while fostering transparency, growth, opportunities for companies and ultimately job creation. At a time when Europe is experiencing a difficult migration crisis this Agreement can be a good tool to help to directly tackle the problem of the developing countries of origin of immigrants", said the rapporteur Pablo Zalba Bidegain (EPP, ES).
The agreement contains around 40 provisions aimed at making it easier for exporters to comply with border measures and a technical assistance mechanism to help developing and least-developed countries to handle the customs procedures. It was backed by the EP by 569 votes in favour, 99 against and 27 abstentions.
In the accompanying own-initiative resolution MEPs stress the benefits of the deal for developing countries, in particular for SMEs, in cutting the red tape, reducing the uncertainty about market entry conditions. MEPs quote toe OECD estimates that, once fully implemented, the deal could cut the costs of trade by between 12.5% and 17.5%.
They also stress that the rules on transparency and the automated entry and payment of duties, could help address border corruption.
MEPs in resolution also support the EU initiative to target EUR 400 million in five years for supporting trade facilitation reforms and improving the customs systems of developing and least developed countries.
The deal now also needs to be backed by the EU Council.
It will take effect upon ratification by two thirds of all WTO members. After that, all WTO members will have to modernize their customs procedures to comply with the new provisions.
The trade facilitation agreement was concluded at the 9th WTO Ministerial Conference in December 2013 as a part of the so called "Bali Package" and is the first multilateral agreement WTO has achieved since it was established in 1995.
It contains approximately 40 provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including provisions for the publication of laws, regulations and procedures, use of electronic payment, reduced formalities and documentation requirements or uniformity in application of border procedures.