New WTO import licensing database makes search more efficient

Enterprises can now find the import licensing information they need on one platform with the launch of the new Import Licensing database by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The newly unveiled platform provides a one-stop shop for the business community to find the right information on import licensing procedures more efficiently.

The website gathers together import licensing information, analysis and reporting in a systemic and structured way, and streamlines notification procedures for easier use and better access by users.

Four years in the making, the website was developed by the WTO Secretariat’s Market Access Division. The work entailed designing the structure of the new platform, reviewing and analyzing all import licensing notifications submitted by members since 1995 and uploading the profiles of 134 members.

The division also verified over 2,500 pieces of legislation to make sure all links lead to the relevant information and ensure accuracy regarding more than 1,000 products and procedures.

The result is a comprehensive information center offering a user-friendly interface and containing all WTO members’ legislation, procedures and product information relating to import licensing.

Import licensing requirements imposed by nations have grown more detailed and complicated as governments frequently use them not just to enforce restrictions and collect statistics but also to safeguard product quality, environment, consumer welfare, public health or national security. Consequently this has made the search for information on procedural requirements harder, WTO said.

WTO deputy director-general Yi Xiaozhun said it is important to make import licensing procedures more transparent to promote more inclusive and predictable trade. Furthermore, enabling easier access to import licensing information will further reduce trade costs for both exporters and importers.

“I fully believe that the new WTO import licensing database will significantly improve transparency in this important field and will benefit all members, especially those developing members who have capacity and resource constraints, as well as SMEs and MSMEs,” Yi said.

The new import licensing website can be accessed at

Import licenses are permits granted before a product is imported. The administrative procedures for obtaining the licenses should be simple, neutral, equitable and transparent. Where possible they should be given automatically and quickly, and even if they are non-automatic, they should not obstruct trade unnecessarily, said WTO.

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