The Trade Facilitation Agreement - Section II

SPECIAL AND DIFFERENTIAL TREATMENT PROVISIONS FOR DEVELOPING COUNTRY MEMBERS AND LEAST-DEVELOPED COUNTRY MEMBERS


ARTICLE 13: GENERAL PRINCIPLES

1. The provisions contained in Articles 1 to 12 of this Agreement shall be implemented by developing and least-developed country Members in accordance with this Section, which is based on the modalities agreed in Annex D of the July 2004 Framework Agreement (WT/L/579) and in paragraph 33 of and Annex E to the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration (WT/MIN(05)/DEC).
2. Assistance and support for capacity building1  should be provided to help developing and least-developed country Members implement the provisions of this Agreement, in accordance with their nature and scope. The extent and the timing of implementation of the provisions of this Agreement shall be related to the implementation capacities of developing and least-developed country Members. Where a developing or least-developed country Member continues to lack the necessary capacity, implementation of the provision(s) concerned will not be required until implementation capacity has been acquired.
3. Least-developed country Members will only be required to undertake commitments to the extent consistent with their individual development, financial and trade needs or their administrative and institutional capabilities.
4. These principles shall be applied through the provisions set out in Section II.

ARTICLE 14: CATEGORIES OF PROVISIONS

1. There are three categories of provisions:
(a) Category A contains provisions that a developing country Member or a least-developed country Member designates for implementation upon entry into force of this Agreement, or in the case of a least-developed country Member within one year after entry into force, as provided in Article 15.
(b) Category B contains provisions that a developing country Member or a least-developed country Member designates for implementation on a date after a transitional period of time following the entry into force of this Agreement, as provided in Article 16.
(c) Category C contains provisions that a developing country Member or a least-developed country Member designates for implementation on a date after a transitional period of time following the entry into force of this Agreement and requiring the acquisition of implementation capacity through the provision of assistance and support for capacity building, as provided for in Article 16.
2. Each developing country and least-developed country Member shall self-designate, on an individual basis, the provisions it is including under each of the Categories A, B and C.

ARTICLE 15:   NOTIFICATION AND IMPLEMENTATION OF CATEGORY A

1. Upon entry into force of this Agreement, each developing country Member shall implement its Category A commitments. Those commitments designated under Category A will thereby be made an integral part of this Agreement.
2. A least-developed country Member may notify the Committee of the provisions it has designated in Category A for up to one year after entry into force of this Agreement. Each least-developed country Member's commitments designated under Category A will thereby be made an integral part of this Agreement.

ARTICLE 16: NOTIFICATION OF DEFINITIVE DATES FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF CATEGORY B AND CATEGORY C

1. With respect to the provisions that a developing country Member has not designated in Category A, the Member may delay implementation in accordance with the process set out in this Article.

Developing Country Member Category B
(a) Upon entry into force of this Agreement, each developing country Member shall notify the Committee of the provisions that it has designated in Category B and their corresponding indicative dates for implementation2.   
(b) No later than one year after entry into force of this Agreement, each developing country Member shall notify the Committee of its definitive dates for implementation of the provisions it has designated in Category B. If a developing country Member, before this deadline, believes it requires additional time to notify its definitive dates, the Member may request that the Committee extend the period sufficient to notify its dates.
Developing Country Member Category C
(c) Upon entry into force of this Agreement, each developing country Member shall notify the Committee of the provisions that it has designated in Category C and their corresponding indicative dates for implementation. For transparency purposes, notifications submitted shall include information on the assistance and support for capacity building that the Member requires in order to implement.3
(d) Within one year after entry into force of this Agreement, developing country Members and relevant donor Members, taking into account any existing arrangements already in place, notifications pursuant to paragraph 1 of Article 22 and information submitted pursuant to subparagraph (c) above, shall provide information to the Committee on the arrangements maintained or entered into that are necessary to provide assistance and support for capacity building to enable implementation of Category C.4  The participating developing country Member shall promptly inform the Committee of such arrangements. The Committee shall also invite non-Member donors to provide information on existing or concluded arrangements.
(e) Within 18 months from the date of the provision of the information stipulated in subparagraph (d), donor Members and respective developing country Members shall inform the Committee of the progress in the provision of assistance and support for capacity building. Each developing country Member shall, at the same time, notify its list of definitive dates for implementation.

2. With respect to those provisions that a least-developed country Member has not designated under Category A, least-developed country Members may delay implementation in accordance with the process set forth in this Article.

Least-Developed Country Member Category B
(a) No later than one year after entry into force of this Agreement, a least-developed country Member shall notify the Committee of its Category B provisions and may notify their corresponding indicative dates for implementation of these provisions, taking into account maximum flexibilities for least-developed country Members.
(b) No later than two years after the notification date stipulated under subparagraph (a) above, each least-developed country Member shall notify the Committee to confirm designations of provisions and notify its dates for implementation. If a least-developed country Member, before this deadline, believes it requires additional time to notify its definitive dates, the Member may request that the Committee extend the period sufficiently to notify its dates.
Least-Developed Country Member Category C 
(c) For transparency purposes and to facilitate arrangements with donors, one year after entry into force of this Agreement, each least-developed country Member shall notify the Committee of the provisions it has designated in Category C, taking into account maximum flexibilities for least-developed country Members.
(d) One year after the date stipulated in subparagraph (c) above, least-developed country Members shall notify information on assistance and support for capacity building that the Member requires in order to implement.5
(e) No later than two years after the notification under subparagraph (d) above, least-developed country Members and relevant donor Members, taking into account information submitted pursuant to subparagraph (d) above, shall provide information to the Committee on the arrangements maintained or entered into that are necessary to provide assistance and support for capacity building to enable implementation of Category C.6  The participating least-developed country Member shall promptly inform the Committee of such arrangements. The least-developed country Member shall, at the same time, notify indicative dates for implementation of corresponding Category C commitments covered by the assistance and support arrangements. The Committee shall also invite non-Member donors to provide information on existing and concluded arrangements.
(f) No later than 18 months from the date of the provision of the information stipulated in subparagraph (e), relevant donor Members and respective least-developed country Members shall inform the Committee of the progress in the provision of assistance and support for capacity building. Each least-developed country Member shall, at the same time, notify the Committee of its list of definitive dates for implementation.

3. Developing country Members and least-developed country Members experiencing difficulties in submitting definitive dates for implementation within the deadlines set out in paragraphs 1 and 2 because of the lack of donor support or lack of progress in the provision of assistance and support for capacity building should notify the Committee as early as possible prior to the expiration of those deadlines. Members agree to cooperate to assist in addressing such difficulties, taking into account the particular circumstances and special problems facing the Member concerned. The Committee shall, as appropriate, take action to address the difficulties including, where necessary, by extending the deadlines for the Member concerned to notify its definitive dates.
4. Three months before the deadline stipulated in subparagraphs 1(b) or (e), or in the case of a least-developed country Member, subparagraphs 2(b) or (f), the Secretariat shall remind a Member if that Member has not notified a definitive date for implementation of provisions that it has designated in Category B or C. If the Member does not invoke paragraph 3, or in the case of a developing country Member subparagraph 1(b), or in the case of a least-developed country Member subparagraph 2(b), to extend the deadline and still does not notify a definitive date for implementation, the Member shall implement the provisions within one year after the deadline stipulated in subparagraphs 1(b) or (e), or in the case of a least-developed country Member, subparagraphs 2(b) or (f), or extended by paragraph 3. 
5. No later than 60 days after the dates for notification of definitive dates for implementation of Category B and Category C provisions in accordance with paragraphs 1, 2, or 3, the Committee shall take note of the annexes containing each Member's definitive dates for implementation of Category B and Category C provisions, including any dates set under paragraph 4, thereby making these annexes an integral part of this Agreement.

ARTICLE 17: EARLY WARNING MECHANISM: EXTENSION OF IMPLEMENTATION DATES FOR PROVISIONS IN CATEGORIES B AND C

1.
(a) A developing country Member or least-developed country Member that considers itself to be experiencing difficulty in implementing a provision that it has designated in Category B or Category C by the definitive date established under subparagraphs 1(b) or (e) of Article 16, or in the case of a least-developed country Member subparagraphs 2(b) or (f) of Article 16, should notify the Committee. Developing country Members shall notify the Committee no later than 120 days before the expiration of the implementation date. Least-developed country Members shall notify the Committee no later than 90 days before such date.
(b) The notification to the Committee shall indicate the new date by which the developing country Member or least-developed country Member expects to be able to implement the provision concerned. The notification shall also indicate the reasons for the expected delay in implementation. Such reasons may include the need for assistance and support for capacity building not earlier anticipated or additional assistance and support to help build capacity.
2. Where a developing country Member's request for additional time for implementation does not exceed 18 months or a least-developed country Member's request for additional time does not exceed 3 years, the requesting Member is entitled to such additional time without any further action by the Committee.
3. Where a developing country or least-developed country Member considers that it requires a first extension longer than that provided for in paragraph 2 or a second or any subsequent extension, it shall submit to the Committee a request for an extension containing the information described in subparagraph 1(b) no later than 120 days in respect of a developing country Member and 90 days in respect of a least-developed country Member before the expiration of the original definitive implementation date or that date as subsequently extended.  
4. The Committee shall give sympathetic consideration to granting requests for extension taking into account the specific circumstances of the Member submitting the request. These circumstances may include difficulties and delays in obtaining assistance and support for capacity building.

ARTICLE 18: IMPLEMENTATION OF CATEGORY B AND CATEGORY C

1. In accordance with paragraph 2 of Article 13, if a developing country Member or a least-developed country Member, having fulfilled the procedures set forth in paragraphs 1 or 2 of Article 16 and in Article 17, and where an extension requested has not been granted or where the developing country Member or least-developed country Member otherwise experiences unforeseen circumstances that prevent an extension being granted under Article 17, self-assesses that its capacity to implement a provision under Category C continues to be lacking, that Member shall notify the Committee of its inability to implement the relevant provision.
2. The Committee shall establish an Expert Group immediately, and in any case no later than 60 days after the Committee receives the notification from the relevant developing country Member or least-developed country Member. The Expert Group will examine the issue and make a recommendation to the Committee within 120 days of its composition.
3. The Expert Group shall be composed of five independent persons that are highly qualified in the fields of trade facilitation and assistance and support for capacity building. The composition of the Expert Group shall ensure balance between nationals from developing and developed country Members. Where a least-developed country Member is involved, the Expert Group shall include at least one national from a least-developed country Member. If the Committee cannot agree on the composition of the Expert Group within 20 days of its establishment, the Director-General, in consultation with the chair of the Committee, shall determine the composition of the Expert Group in accordance with the terms of this paragraph.  
4. The Expert Group shall consider the Member's self-assessment of lack of capacity and shall make a recommendation to the Committee. When considering the Expert Group's recommendation concerning a least-developed country Member, the Committee shall, as appropriate, take action that will facilitate the acquisition of sustainable implementation capacity.
5. The Member shall not be subject to proceedings under the Dispute Settlement Understanding on this issue from the time the developing country Member notifies the Committee of its inability to implement the relevant provision until the first meeting of the Committee after it receives the recommendation of the Expert Group. At that meeting, the Committee shall consider the recommendation of the Expert Group. For a least-developed country Member, the proceedings under the Dispute Settlement Understanding shall not apply to the respective provision from the date of notification to the Committee of its inability to implement the provision until the Committee makes a decision on the issue, or within 24 months after the date of the first Committee meeting set out above, whichever is earlier.
6. Where a least-developed country Member loses its ability to implement a Category C commitment, it may inform the Committee and follow the procedures set out in this Article.

ARTICLE 19: SHIFTING BETWEEN CATEGORIES B AND C

1. Developing country Members and least-developed country Members who have notified provisions under Categories B and C may shift provisions between such categories through the submission of a notification to the Committee.  Where a Member proposes to shift a provision from Category B to Category C, the Member shall provide information on the assistance and support required to build capacity.
2. In the event that additional time is required to implement a provision shifted from Category B to Category C, the Member may:
(a) use the provisions of Article 17, including the opportunity for an automatic extension; or
(b) request an examination by the Committee of the Member's request for extra time to implement the provision and, if necessary, for assistance and support for capacity building, including the possibility of a review and recommendation by the Expert Group under Article 18; or
(c) in the case of a least-developed country Member, any new implementation date of more than four years after the original date notified under Category B shall require approval by the Committee. In addition, a least-developed country Member shall continue to have recourse to Article 17. It is understood that assistance and support for capacity building is required for a least-developed country Member so shifting.

ARTICLE 20: GRACE PERIOD FOR THE APPLICATION OF THE UNDERSTANDING ON RULES AND PROCEDURES GOVERNING THE SETTLEMENT OF DISPUTES

1. For a period of two years after entry into force of this Agreement, the provisions of Articles XXII and XXIII of GATT 1994 as elaborated and applied by the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes shall not apply to the settlement of disputes against a developing country Member concerning any provision that the Member has designated in Category A.
2. For a period of six years after entry into force of this Agreement, the provisions of Articles XXII and XXIII of GATT 1994 as elaborated and applied by the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes shall not apply to the settlement of disputes against a least-developed country Member concerning any provision that the Member has designated in Category A.
3. For a period of eight years after implementation of a provision under Category B or C by a least-developed country Member, the provisions of Articles XXII and XXIII of GATT 1994 as elaborated and applied by the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes shall not apply to the settlement of disputes against that least-developed country Member concerning that provision.
4. Notwithstanding the grace period for the application of the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes, before making a request for consultations pursuant to Articles XXII or XXIII of GATT 1994, and at all stages of dispute settlement procedures with regard to a measure of a least-developed country Member, a Member shall give particular consideration to the special situation of least-developed country Members. In this regard, Members shall exercise due restraint in raising matters under the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes involving least-developed country Members.
5. Each Member shall, upon request, during the grace period allowed under this Article, provide adequate opportunity to other Members for discussion with respect to any issue relating to the implementation of this Agreement.

ARTICLE 21: PROVISION OF ASSISTANCE AND SUPPORT FOR CAPACITY BUILDING

1. Donor Members agree to facilitate the provision of assistance and support for capacity building to developing country and least-developed country Members on mutually agreed terms either bilaterally or through the appropriate international organizations. The objective is to assist developing country and least-developed country Members to implement the provisions of Section I of this Agreement.  
2. Given the special needs of least-developed country Members, targeted assistance and support should be provided to the least-developed country Members so as to help them build sustainable capacity to implement their commitments. Through the relevant development cooperation mechanisms and consistent with the principles of technical assistance and support for capacity building as referred to in paragraph 3, development partners shall endeavour to provide assistance and support for capacity building in this area in a way that does not compromise existing development priorities.  
3. Members shall endeavour to apply the following principles for providing assistance and support for capacity building with regard to the implementation of this Agreement:
(a) take account of the overall developmental framework of recipient countries and regions and, where relevant and appropriate, ongoing reform and technical assistance programs;
(b) include, where relevant and appropriate, activities to address regional and sub-regional challenges and promote regional and sub-regional integration;
(c) ensure that ongoing trade facilitation reform activities of the private sector are factored into assistance activities;
(d) promote coordination between and among Members and other relevant institutions, including regional economic communities, to ensure maximum effectiveness of and results from this assistance. To this end:
(i) coordination, primarily in the country or region where the assistance is to be provided, between partner Members and donors and among bilateral and multilateral donors should aim to avoid overlap and duplication in assistance programs and inconsistencies in reform activities through close coordination of technical assistance and capacity building interventions;
(ii) for least-developed country Members, the Enhanced Integrated Framework for trade-related assistance for the least-developed countries should be a part of this coordination process; and
(iii) Members should also promote internal coordination between their trade and development officials, both in capitals and in Geneva, in the implementation of this Agreement and technical assistance.
(e) encourage use of existing in-country and regional coordination structures such as roundtables and consultative groups to coordinate and monitor implementation activities; and
(f) encourage developing country Members to provide capacity building to other developing and least-developed country Members and consider supporting such activities, where possible. 
4. The Committee shall hold at least one dedicated session per year to: 
(a) discuss any problems regarding implementation of provisions or sub-parts of provisions of this Agreement;
(b) review progress in the provision of assistance and support for capacity building to support the implementation of the Agreement, including any developing or least-developed country Members not receiving adequate assistance and support for capacity building;
(c) share experiences and information on ongoing assistance and support for capacity building and implementation programs, including challenges and successes; 
(d)   review donor notifications as set forth in Article 22; and
(e)   review the operation of paragraph 2.

ARTICLE 22: INFORMATION ON ASSISTANCE AND SUPPORT FOR CAPACITY BUILDING TO BE SUBMITTED TO THE COMMITTEE

1. To provide transparency to developing  country Members and least-developed country Members on the provision of assistance and support for capacity building for implementation of Section I, each donor Member assisting developing country Members and least-developed country Members with the implementation of this Agreement shall submit to the Committee, at entry into force of this Agreement and annually thereafter, the following information on its assistance and support for capacity building that was disbursed in the preceding 12 months and, where available, that is committed in the next 12 months7 :

(a) a description of the assistance and support for capacity building;
(b) the status and amount committed/disbursed;
(c) procedures for disbursement of the assistance and support;
(d) the beneficiary Member or, where necessary, the region; and
 (e) the implementing agency in the Member providing assistance and support.

The information shall be provided in the format specified in Annex 1. In the case of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (referred to in this Agreement as the “OECD”) Members, the information submitted can be based on relevant information from the OECD Creditor Reporting System. Developing country Members declaring themselves in a position to provide assistance and support for capacity building are encouraged to provide the information above.

2. Donor Members assisting developing country Members and least-developed country Members shall submit to the Committee:

(a) contact points of their agencies responsible for providing assistance and support for capacity building related to the implementation of Section I of this Agreement including, where practicable, information on such contact points within the country or region where the assistance and support is to be provided; and
(b) information on the process and mechanisms for requesting assistance and support for capacity building.

Developing country Members declaring themselves in a position to provide assistance and support are encouraged to provide the information above.

3. Developing country Members and least-developed country Members intending to avail themselves of trade facilitation-related assistance and support for capacity building shall submit to the Committee information on contact point(s) of the office(s) responsible for coordinating and prioritizing such assistance and support.
4. Members may provide the information referred to in paragraphs 2 and 3 through internet references and shall update the information as necessary. The Secretariat shall make all such information publicly available. 
5. The Committee shall invite relevant international and regional organizations (such as the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the WCO, United Nations Regional Commissions, the World Bank, or their subsidiary bodies, and regional development banks) and other agencies of cooperation to provide information referred to in paragraphs 1, 2, and 4. 

Annex 1: Format for notification under paragraph 1 of Article 22

Donor Member:
Period covered by the notification:

 
Description of the technical and financial assistance and capacity building resources
Status and amount committed/disbursed
Beneficiary country/ Region (where necessary)
The implementing agency in the Member providing assistance
Procedures for disbursement of the assistance

 


1. For the purposes of this Agreement, "assistance and support for capacity building" may take the form of technical, financial, or any other mutually agreed form of assistance provided.

2. Notifications submitted may also include such further information as the notifying Member deems appropriate. Members are encouraged to provide information on the domestic agency or entity responsible for implementation.

3. Members may also include information on national trade facilitation implementation plans or projects, the domestic agency or entity responsible for implementation, and the donors with which the Member may have an arrangement in place to provide assistance.

4. Such arrangements will be on mutually agreed terms, either bilaterally or through appropriate international organizations, consistent with paragraph 3 of Article 21.

5. Members may also include information on national trade facilitation implementation plans or projects, the domestic agency or entity responsible for implementation, and the donors with which the Member may have an arrangement in place to provide assistance.

6. Such arrangements will be on mutually agreed terms, either bilaterally or through appropriate international organizations, consistent with paragraph 3 of Article 21.

7. The information provided will reflect the demand driven nature of the provision of assistance and support for capacity building.<7p>