Trade facilitation is the name given to measures that simplify and reduce the impact of import, export and customs procedures. The WTO, the central organization for the promotion of international trade flows, has a natural role in setting rules on trade facilitation. It already contains some limited and out-dated provisions on trade facilitation. The current negotiations are focused on the development of a more binding rules-based approach. This would help guarantee transparency, predictability and reduced costs for traders; reinforce political commitment to reform; and benefit governments and taxpayers through more effective controls and security, higher revenue intakes and a better investment climate.
As part of the WTO Doha Development Agenda, WTO Members agreed on 31 July 2004, in the July Framework (Annex D)to launch negotiations on trade facilitation. The negotiations aim to clarify and improve the existing WTO provisions, encompassing the following three elements:
Increasing the transparency of trade regulations (GATT Article X);
Simplifying, standardizing and modernizing import, export and customs procedures (GATT Article VIII);
Improving the conditions for transit (GATT Article V).
Pakistan has been a major proponent of Trade Facilitation and has played an important role to bring trade facilitation negotiations back on track after the Cancun failure and building consensus for establishment of negotiating group on Trade Facilitation. Pakistan believes that trade facilitation negotiations has untapped potential to improve trading disciplines in favor of developing countries. The real challenge lies in achieving a balance between facilitating trade without compromising on efficient collection of custom revenues and other border controls. Pakistan has already reformed its import and export procedures.