How to present the instrument of ratification?

The Trade Facilitation Agreement entered into force on 22 February 2017 when the two-thirds of WTO Members domestically ratified a Protocol of Amendment and notified the WTO of their acceptance of this Protocol.  This Protocol of Amendment, which was officially opened for acceptance on 27 November 2014, will insert the Agreement on Trade Facilitation into the WTO Agreement.

This page responds to frequently asked questions about acceptance procedures and provides a model instrument of acceptance that Members may wish to follow in preparing their instruments of acceptance:

What is the WTO practice regarding the deposit of acceptances?

The WTO closely follows established United Nations depositary practice, which is based in international treaty law, including the formalities and requirements concerning valid acceptance set out below.

What must be stated in an instrument of acceptance?

There is no single, uniform approach for drawing up an instrument of acceptance for the Protocol; each individual Member may have its own practice for accepting international treaties and treaty amendments. However, in line with established depositary practice, the instrument of acceptance must give clear and unambiguous expression to the relevant Member’s intention and consent to be bound by the agreement in question (in this case, the Protocol).

In particular, the instrument of acceptance must:

-clearly identify the Protocol by its full title and by the place and date of its adoption, i.e. "the Protocol Amending the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization done at Geneva on 27 November 2014" or, alternatively, reproduce the Protocol as an attachment to the instrument of acceptance;
-state that the Member concerned formally accepts the Protocol and expresses its consent to be bound by it;
state the date and the place of issuance of the instrument of acceptance;
-be signed; and
-state the name and title of the person signing the instrument.

Who may sign the instrument of acceptance?

Established practice is for the instrument of acceptance to be issued and signed by the head of state, the head of government, or the minister for foreign affairs (the “Big Three”)1 The instrument may be signed by another official provided that he or she produces official documentation (“full powers”) to the effect that one of the “Big Three” has authorized him or her to issue and sign the instrument.

Unsigned instruments in the form of notes verbales, even bearing the seal of the ministry or of the presidency, are not sufficient for accepting the Protocol.

What are the arrangements for depositing a valid instrument of acceptance?

In practical terms, the instrument of acceptance should be deposited with the Depositary Assistant in the WTO Legal Affairs Division. Only original instruments are valid, and the date of deposit corresponds to the date when the valid original instrument fulfilling the above requirements is received by the Depositary Assistant. Copies in electronic or paper form are not acceptable.

Model instrument of acceptance

For the Protocol Amending the WTO Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, done at Geneva on 27 November 2014:

Whereas the Protocol Amending the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization (“the Protocol”) was done at Geneva on 27 November 2014 (WT/L/940);

And whereas, in accordance with its paragraph 4, the Protocol shall enter into force in accordance with Article X:3 of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization;

Now therefore, I, [name of signatory], [where applicable: head of state, head of government or minister of foreign affairs] of [Member], do hereby formally declare that [Member] accepts the aforementioned Protocol and undertakes faithfully to perform and carry out the stipulations therein contained.

In witness whereof, I [name and title of signatory] have signed this Instrument of Acceptance, at [place] on this [day] of [month] in the year [year].
[Signature, title and seal]

Interested delegations are invited to contact the Depositary Assistant in the WTO Legal Affairs Division, with any further questions, in particular if further assistance is needed with drawing up a valid instrument of acceptance.


1. Alternatively, where applicable, a Member’s competent authority, typically the highest ranking official responsible for external trade matters, may issue and sign the instrument. This is particularly the case for WTO Members that might not have officials with titles directly corresponding to the “Big Three” in a way that is acceptable for the entire WTO Membership.

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