On January 31, 2018, Barbados became the 130th World Trade Organisation (WTO) member to ratify the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement.
According to the press release from the Barbados Government Information Service (GIS), “the instrument of ratification was formally handed over by Ambassador to the United Nations and Other International Organisations, Bentley Gibbs, to Secretary General of the WTO, Robert Azevedo, in Geneva, Switzerland”.
The Trade Facilitation Agreement came out of the WTO’s Bali Ministerial in 2013 and entered into force in February 22, 2017 after two-thirds of the WTO’s membership ratified the Agreement. It aims to expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods across borders by reducing red tape, improving transparency and facilitating cooperation among customs authorities.
The benefits of these provisions, once implemented, include reducing trade costs for businesses, increasing participation in global value chains and improving trade flows. Ratification of the Agreement is, therefore, an important signal to investors of a country’s commitment to improving its business environment for trade.
In keeping with the principle of Special and Differential Treatment, there are implementation flexibilities in Section II for developing and least developed countries, recognising they may need more time to implement the provisions of the Agreement. Like other developing and least developed countries, Barbados has access to the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility which provides assistance for notification, capacity-building support and grants.
The following other Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have already ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement: Trinidad & Tobago, Belize, Guyana, Grenada and St. Lucia (2015), Jamaica and St. Kitts & Nevis (2016), St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Dominican Republic and Antigua & Barbuda (2017).
Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.