The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement: Form Without Substance Again?

9 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2014

Date Written: August 28, 2014


The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement provides flexibility for Developing Members by allowing them to accept only the legal obligations they attach as “schedules” – as the schedules attached to a tariff agreement. The possibility that Developed Members can induce broad acceptance by Developing Members through reciprocal negotiation is compromised by Developed Members not having the flexibility of attaching schedules – they must accept all of the disciplines of the agreement. Inducing broad acceptance by Developing Members through the provision of assistance (i.e., paying Developing Members to do so) is compromised by the agreement not bringing the provision of assistance within its legal obligations. The agreement thus fails to bring reciprocity to bear on the acceptance of discipline over trade controls and fails to give operational content within the GATT/WTO legal system to the provision of assistance to developing countries. I conclude that it is another example of the “form without substance” (Robert Hudec’s earlier conclusion) that has characterized the GATT/WTO system’s relations with developing countries since its beginning.

Keywords: WTO, GATT, Trade Facilitation Agreement, Doha Round, Implementation, Aid-for-trade, Robert Hudec, Developing Countries, form without substance

JEL Classification: O19, F55

Suggested Citation

Finger, Joseph, The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement: Form Without Substance Again? (August 28, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Joseph Finger (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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