Volume 12 (2017) / Issue 1
Ben Czapnik, 'Will the Trade Facilitation Agreements Novel Architecture and Flexibilities Have Unforeseen Consequences? An Analysis in the Context of World Trade Organization Accessions' (2017) 12 Global Trade and Customs Journal, Issue 1, pp. 2–15
When finalizing the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), World Trade Organization (WTO) Members introduced a highly novel architecture by allowing developing countries to self-designate their transition periods and to make their implementation conditional on the provision of technical assistance. The WTO contains certain rules and conventions of horizontal application and it is unclear how this will interact with the TFA’s novel architecture, especially for special and differential treatment (S&DT). For example, in the context of accessions, the WTO takes a strict approach to S&DT. Acceding countries are often pressed to implement WTO commitments during accession negotiations. There is a general presumption against transition periods and, where acceding countries insist on access to transition periods, these have to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis. This convention in accession negotiations runs contrary to the highly-permissive approach to transition periods in the TFA. It thus raises the question of how the WTO should deal with S&DT and transition periods for TFA commitments in developing country accessions. This article will explore several options and conclude that WTO accessions should replicate the TFA’s permissive approach (with some minor amendments).
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