Trade facilitation was tabled at the WTO's First Ministerial Meeting in 1996 as a “new” issue, with the intent that exploratory and analytical work on the simplification of trade procedures be carried out in order to assess the scope for WTO rules in this area. Five years later at Doha, the trade ministers agreed that negotiations would take place after the next session of the Ministerial Conference on the basis of a decision to be taken at that session on the modalities of negotiations. This chapter reviews the work done on trade facilitation in the WTO between 1996 and 2001 and assesses the prospects for further work, including formal negotiations, in the context of the Doha declaration.
Who's doing what in trade facilitation: a brief overview
There is no single definition of “trade facilitation.” The term generally refers to the simplification of procedural and administrative impediments to trade. Different organizations place emphasis on different sets of procedural and administrative impediments. In the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, trade facilitation is used interchangeably with “business facilitation” and encompasses a broad range of issues such as customs procedures, standards and conformance, mobility of business, and electronic commerce (Woo and Wilson 2000). The OECD also employs a broad understanding, including procedures and regulations relating to customs, valuation, classification, transport, banking, insurance, and business practices, as well as issues related to telecoms, dissemination of information, information technology, and training.