Book review: Sheela Rai and Jane Winn (Eds.), Trade Facilitation and the WTO

Date01 February 2022
Published date01 February 2022
Subject MatterBook Review
Book Review
Sheela Rai and Jane Winn (Eds.), Trade Facilitation and the WTO.
Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2019, GBP 61.99, 270 pp. (Hardback).
ISBN 978-1-5275-3402-5.
While the member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed to
ensure ‘freer’ trade flows through periodic tariff reforms in 1995, the
transformations in the trade-facilitating framework were not originally part of the
agenda. However, the procedural challenges to trade, faced at the entry points
(gateway issues) and beyond (behind-the-border), received greater attention in the
context of reformed tariff regimes after 1995. In a remedial attempt, in the next
WTO Ministerial Conference held in Singapore (1996), the WTO members agreed
to include the four ‘Singapore issues’ in the subsequent negotiating agenda. While
negotiation on three of these issues, namely trade and investment measures,
transparency in government procurement and competition policy, is yet to gather
requisite momentum, the trade facilitation agreement (henceforth TFA) was
arrived at during the Bali Ministerial Conference of the WTO in 2013.
The TFA required the member countries to ensure faster movement of the
consignments (including cargo in transit, for example, to landlocked countries),
improved port and customs handling to secure hassle-free clearance mechanism,
enhanced access to information (including policy change), etc. As part of the TFA,
WTO member countries were required not only to improve the policy framework
but also to improve infrastructure, wherever considered necessary. In 2017, the
TFA agreement entered into force when the provisions were ratified in two-thirds
of the WTO member countries. It is of crucial importance for policymakers and
negotiators in India and other WTO members to draw the appropriate lessons
from various aspects of the agreement to improve the future trade potential. The
volume edited by Rai and Winn, which attempts to analyse the TF scenario in the
context of the legal architecture, is, therefore, a timely contribution to the existing
There are 11 articles in the volume. While the TFA is a post-WTO development,
several core principles of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)
referred to these provisions in spirit. The first chapter by Rai et al. attempts to
judge the influence of the GATT jurisprudence on TFA by analysing select WTO
disputes and the emerging concerns. In light of the WTO dispute settlement
verdicts, the analysis concludes that the obligations of members under GATT and
TFA may turn out to be less ambiguous. The second article by Jayagovind
discusses the coverage of the TFA, with particular mention to the special and
Foreign Trade Review
57(1) 114–116, 2022
© 2021 Indian Institute of
Foreign Trade
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/00157325211053904

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