Few days ago Russia became 77th member of World Trade Organization (WTO) to ratify Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). The United States also ratified TFA. The U.S. ratification was easy because many of TFA’s terms are already applied in practice (e.g. use of customs brokers, ruling procedure, administrative review, regulatory publications, ACE’s single window, etc.). The major TFA’s benefit for the U.S. would be prosecutorial and investigative power that may increase revelations such as the one that took place with Lumber Liquidators. TFA’s Article 8 titled “Border Agency Cooperation” would allow Customs and Border Protection (CBP) develop “joint controls.” TFA’s Article 12 titled “Customs Cooperation” ¶ 2.1 states:
Upon request and subject to the provisions of this Article, Members shall exchange the information set out in subparagraphs 6.1(b) and/or (c) for the purpose of verifying an import or export declaration in identified cases where there are reasonable grounds to doubt the truth or accuracy of the declaration.
TFA’s Article 6 titled “Provision of Information” requires members to promptly:
6.1(b) provide the specific information as set out in the import or export declaration, or the declaration, to the extent it is available, along with a description of the level of protection and confidentiality required of the requesting Member
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6.1(c) if requested, provide the specific information as set out in the following documents, or the documents, submitted in support of the import or export declaration, to the extent it is available: commercial invoice, packing list, certificate of origin and bill of lading, in the form in which these were filed, whether paper or electronic, along with a description of the level of protection and confidentiality required of the requesting Member;
While further TFA’s text outlines procedural and confidentiality issues, TFA’s provides an additional tool for CBP to verify, without reliance on importer’s or exporter’s statements, that a particular transaction is legitimate. In the case of Lumber Liquidators, for example, CBP would be able to request from both Russia and China documentation (or lack thereof) evidencing upstream chain of custody for lumber products.
Current list of countries that ratified TFA are: Hong Kong China, Singapore, the United States, Mauritius, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, Botswana, Trinidad and Tobago, the Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, Niger, Belize, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, China, Liechtenstein, Lao PDR, New Zealand, Togo, Thailand, the European Union (on behalf of its 28 member states), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Pakistan, Panama, Guyana, Côte d’Ivoire, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Kenya, Myanmar, Norway, Viet Nam, Brunei, Ukraine, Zambia, Lesotho, Georgia, Seychelles, Jamaica, Mali, Cambodia, Paraguay, Turkey, Brazil, Macao China, the United Arab Emirates, Samoa and India.