Aid for Trade and the Trade Facilitation Agreement: What They Can Do for LDCs

The Aid for Trade (AFT) initiative, launched in 2005 to help developing and especially the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) integrate the rules of the World Trade System adopted in the Uruguay Round turned out to be more about mobilizing support for the stalled Doha Round negotiations. A decade later, a broadened AFT agenda has eluded effective evaluation. The recently concluded Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) provides an ideal opportunity to narrow the scope of AFT activities to heed the call for ‘Managing for Development Results’ (MfDR). The article reviews the evidence on trade costs distinguishing between LDCs and Landlocked LDCS (LLDCs). The article also includes new estimates of time in transit for international parcel data that is measured relatively accurately. New estimates provide support for allocating a greater share of AFT funds towards LDCs and particularly towards LLDCs, both groups showing higher trade costs than comparators and less progress in reducing trade costs since 1995. On average, time in customs for imports and exports are also significantly higher for both groups than for their respective comparators. LDCs and LLDCs have systematically lower scores for the components in the new Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Trade Facilitation Indicator (TFI). These new estimates suggest that a successful implementation of the TFA, defined as moving halfway towards the frontier value of the TFI for the respective country grouping could reduce trade costs for imports of LDCs by 2.5% and by 4.5% for LLDCs. Even though there is more to trade costs than customs management, monitoring implementation of the TFA would be part of the Istanbul Program of Action (IPoA) and a stepping stone towards the concrete trade performance targets that have lacked in AFT activities so far.

De Melo J., Wagner L., (2016) "Aid for Trade and the Trade Facilitation Agreement: What They Can Do for LDCs", Journal of World Trade, vol. 50(6), pp. 935–969