Momentum on Trade Policy
Both here and abroad, developments are occurring on the trade policy front. In the United States, the mid-term elections have increased hopes that Congress will pass Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) early next year if not in the lame-duck session.
The last few days have been very productive on the WTO front as well. Earlier this week, the US and China announced a breakthrough regarding the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) which should pave the way for a significant expansion of the number of technology products that would receive duty-free treatment in participating countries. Now there has been a breakthrough with India regarding the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
The TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods. It aims to reduce the costly bureaucratic inefficiencies associated with the movement of goods across national borders. Clarifying the rules and obligations to move goods quickly and transparently offers huge benefits to consumers and producers alike. It should also reduce the opportunities for graft and corruption in the customs process. According to the Organization for Economic Development (OECD), the TFA could increase global GDP by almost $1 trillion.
These are welcomed accomplishments and offer much needed hope that the WTO can move not only these two agreements but on a broader agenda for trade liberalization. The WTO Director-General Azevedo, USTR Froman and his counterparts deserve credit for their perseverance in these matters.