The E15 engages key stakeholders – trade and investment policy makers, business and thought leaders – in policy dialogues in Geneva and around the world to explore and help validate ideas, align interests and strengthen the impetus for change.
RTA Exchange Dialogues
Facilitation 2.0 in Regional Trade Agreements: Enabling Trade in the Digital Age
One year on from its entry into force, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), the only multilateral deal to have eluded the Doha Round deadlock, has allowed for sustained momentum on the trade policy reform agenda and provided new oxygen in a stifled negotiating environment. Ratified by four in five WTO members, the experience of the TFA makes a cogent case for the negotiation of trade-enabling rules. According to WTO data, the full implementation of the TFA could reduce worldwide trade costs by an average of 14.3 percent, with the largest gains for small and medium-size enterprises in developing and least developed countries.
The reduction of transactional costs through simplification, homologation, and enhanced transparency could have significant impact on the ability of least developed and developing countries to participate in the new digital age dominated by complex value chains. Indeed, the TFA is not only an instrument for increasing trade volumes, but a means for achieving greater economic inclusiveness.
However significant, the TFA in its current form extends only to trade in physical goods and is insufficient for the features of the new economy, missing a large part of what increasingly matters to production models and economic development today. New and changing business models, structures of production, and policy aims reveal a new frontier for facilitation, necessary to catalyse and maximise benefits in the digital age. Simplified and harmonised procedures in key policy areas, namely, investment, services, and e-commerce are the next step in ensuring that the WTO effectively responds to 21st century economic and developmental imperatives, and reaffirm the relevance and centrality of the multilateral rules-based system.
Facilitation 2.0 is by nature a multidimensional challenge, involving unilateral structural reform, coherent trade policies, and multiparty initiatives at different international fora, including the WTO and regional trade agreements (RTAs). Through the existing proposals on e-commerce, investment facilitation, services facilitation, and domestic regulations in services, WTO members have begun to address some of the trade topics related to Facilitation 2.0.