Argentina has become the latest country to ratify the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), becoming the 128th WTO member to have done so.

The first multilateral trade agreement in the WTO's 20-year history was introduced in February 2017 to reduce trade barriers and eliminate border transaction costs for companies around the world. It needed to be ratified by two-thirds of the WTO's 164 member countries.

WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement enters into force

Concluded at the WTO's 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference, the TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.

According to the WTO's flagship World Trade Report published in October 2015, implementation of the TFA has the potential to increase global merchandise exports by up to US$1trn per annum. The report also found that developing countries will benefit significantly from the TFA, capturing more than half of the available gains.

Indeed, the European Union (EU) says it wants the agreement to play a significant role in increasing developing countries' involvement in global value chains. As a result, the EU has committed EUR400m to assist them with the reforms needed to comply with the rules set by the agreement.

Argentina's WTO ambassador Hector Marcelo Cima said of the country's entry: "Argentina's ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement reflects our commitment to reforms for a reliable, productive and sustainable environment for growth, employment and development. It is also a firm gesture of support for multilateralism and the shared objective of pursuing fair trade based on clear rules."

In addition to Argentina, five more members have ratified the TFA since the last meeting of the WTO Trade Facilitation Committee on 3 November. These are the Central African Republic, Israel, Indonesia, South Africa, and Antigua and Barbuda.