A new agreement at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to reduce many of the formalities facing exporters could give fresh impetus to cosmetics companies engaged in world trade, although some business leaders say it was only one of a number of problems they faced. The WTO’s trade facilitation agreement, completed at Bali last December, lays down that WTO members must publish all import procedures, charges, tariffs and appeal systems.
It says penalties for breaking customs rules must depend on the seriousness of the breach and not encourage officials to impose them arbitrarily, avoiding conflicts of interest in the assessment and collection of penalties and duties. In effect, the WTO wants to crack down on quasi-protectionist measures in some parts of the world where excessive bureaucracy, delays in getting products from other countries registered, and unnecessarily detailed health and safety requirements have been deliberately deployed in order to protect domestic industry in a country. However, it may take three to five years for the necessary ratification procedures to be completed before these rules come into force, said WTO officials.