What is an FTA? How does it differ from the TFA?

Many might confuse the acronyms FTA and TFA to mean one and the same. In reality, the two are different but very important trade instruments that are used to spur and enable global economic growth.

An FTA is a Free Trade Agreement, which is a multinational agreement to form a free-trade area between the cooperating states of such a treaty. Article XXIV of the GATT 1994 is the basic provision on FTA in the WTO (World Trade Organisation) regime. It serves its purpose to reduce or eliminate any trade barriers that could have existed between the involved countries. In other words, there is some sort of exclusivity in an FTA. However, Article XXIV:4 declares a general principle that the purpose of an FTA should be to facilitate trade between the constituent territories and not to raise barriers to the trade of other contracting parties with such territories.

On the other hand, the TFA (Trade Facilitation Agreement) is a WTO multilateral agreement that is implemented to modernise and simplify import and export processes for the countries that are members of the organisation. Accompanying the provisions, this agreement also stipulates certain measures for customs compliance issues and working towards more effective cooperation between customs and other authorities on trade facilitation. Article 13.2 recognizes that developing and the least developed countries need technical assistance and support for capacity building.

Both an FTA and the TFA play vital roles where they are implemented to allow for more efficient and simplified trade between countries.

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