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Customs & Trade Facilitation

Border delays are especially costly for air shipments, and a critical matter for the survival of air transport as speed is aviation’s key advantage. IATA works to provide a standard approach to comply with government regulations that require the provision of cargo information. Our objective is to help both airlines and forwarders to avoid unnecessary delays at points controlled by customs.​

Advance Cargo Information

The World Customs Organization (WCO) implemented the SAFE Framework of Standards to enhance the security of the international supply chain and promote trade facilitation. It establishes standards to harmonize Advance Cargo Information (ACI) requirements. Since its adoption in 2005, many countries have started to put into effect ACI conditions, but not always aligned with those WCO standards.

In order to improve the security of the global supply chain, and in accordance with SAFE, an increasing number of countries are shaping legislation to require advance electronic submission of data on goods passing their borders. The Air Cargo Tariff and Rules (TACT) includes an e-Customs section covering ACI, along with specific requirements for countries worldwide.


The IATA Cargo-XML messages are becoming the preferred standard for the fulfilment of customs requirements in ACI filing. This new standard is consistent with the WCO Data Model, ensuring compatibility with cross-border regulatory agencies and international organizations.​

A standard and harmonized approach


To develop a more proactive relationship with customs administrations, IATA collaborates with the airfreight supply chain partners through the GACAG Trade Facilitation Task Force. In addition, IATA has established a group of airlines experts in customs matters, the Customs Advisory Workgroup (CUSAG). This group develops industry position papers and deals with security and customs issues:


WTO Bali Agreement


IATA welcomes the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement that emerged from the Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013. The document contains significant trade facilitation requirements and recommendations with regard to customs operations. These are intended to lead, in time, to important reductions in the cost of trade through actions in four main areas:

  • Transparency within the government to promote openness and accountability
  • Simplification to eliminate all unnecessary duplications in trade procedures, and to enable automation of cargo processes
  • Harmonization of national regulations and procedures with international conventions and agreements
  • Standardization of international processes and practices, documents and information agreed by various recognized international bodies

Greater transparency within governments and the resulting improved predictability, as well as harmonization and standardization of procedures will all have a positive impact for the air cargo industry. Read the IATA Bali Trade Deal Impact on Air Freight (pdf) report for more information. ​​​​

Cargo Trade Facilitation Capacity Building

​Resolution of air cargo border issues

Many countries around the world are yet to implement international conventions and standards to automate, coordinate or integrate their border controls. As a result, air cargo stakeholders are confronted with a variety of inefficiencies, delays and unnecessary costs. This is particularly prevalent in “least Developed Countries” and “Developing Countries”. 
In December 2014 the World Trade Organization published their “Trade Facilitation Agreement” (TFA). There are many synergies between the TFA and IATA Cargo objectives, such as: promotion of automation, single windows, trusted trader programs, risk based border controls, and expedited air cargo procedures. The TFA provides valuable tools and guidance to resolve many of the border issues mentioned above. Moreover, following its entry into force, it will be of binding nature on those countries that have acceded to the convention. This will facilitate the ability to obtain actionable achievements.
IATA seeks to resolve cargo border issues in countries around the world and support the implementation of smart and efficient borders. In particular IATA can work with donor institutions to offer capacity building mechanisms delivering diagnostics, programs, best practices and templates aiming at the implementation of trade facilitation practices consistent with the TFA. Such capacity building activities can reduce supply chain costs and delays and ease the impediments of getting goods to international markets.

Capacity building tools

  • Analysis and provision of border management solutions based on WCO, ICAO and WTO Conventions and instruments
  • Coordination with donor institutions to activate financial support programs
  • Specific diagnostics and validation missions jointly with donor institutions

For further information contact us.

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