UN launches interactive guide on cross-border paperless trade


10 December, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Cross-border paperless trade has great potential to not only grow trade competitiveness but also to address new challenges associated with e-commerce and the digital economy.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in collaboration with the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), on Wednesday in Bangkok launched an interactive guide to support readiness assessments on cross-border paperless trade.

The Online Readiness Assessment Guide for Cross-border Paperless Trade is designed to support countries in the region to conduct self-assessments of legal and technical readiness on cross-border paperless trade, according to a message received from UNESCAP office in Bangkok.

With the new guide, countries have at their disposal, comprehensive guides on how to conduct readiness assessments, without the need for intensive physical travelling of experts. They will also be able to interact virtually with experts for further guidance on conducting readiness assessment on a request basis. “The guide being launched today is expected to support member States in conducting self-assessments of their legal and technical readiness for cross-border paperless trade, as a first step towards developing a concrete action plan for implementation,” said the UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana at the launch.

She said the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, that the guide is supporting the implementation of, is designed so that countries at all levels of development and digitalization can participate, leaving no one behind. “I urge all member States to complete ratification as soon as possible,” she added.

“The Online Readiness Assessment Guide for Cross-border Paperless Trade is an important diagnostic tool to identify opportunities for adopting laws and regulations that enable paperless trade. UNCITRAL texts are a core component of that legal environment,” said Ms. Anna Joubin-Bret, Secretary, UNCITRAL.

She said the importance of taking prompt action in this area has recently been highlighted by the discussions on how to mitigate the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are pleased to have cooperated with ESCAP and EIF in preparing this Online Guide and look forward to work with all concerned partners to support States in this critical endeavor,” said Anna Joubin-Bret. “The potential benefits from digitalization of trade processes are substantial. The online interactive guide on cross-border paperless trade will be instrumental in supporting countries to assess their technical and legal gaps in electronic exchange of trade data and documents with other trading partners,” said the Executive Director of the Executive Secretariat for the EIF, Dr. Ratnakar Adhikari.

“We look forward to working with our partners, including ESCAP, to support least developed countries in the region to strengthen their institutional capacity and harmonize data standards towards the vision of an Asia-Pacific paperless trading environment,” said the Executive Director of the Executive Secretariat for the EIF,” he added. Readiness assessments on cross-border paperless trade support implementation of the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, which will soon enter into force on 20 February 2021.

Five countries – Azerbaijan, Philippines, Islamic Republic of Iran, Bangladesh and China - have thus far ratified or acceded to this UN treaty. In addition, Armenia and Cambodia have signed in 2017, with several more in the process of completing their domestic processes for accession.

The treaty, with its common set of general principles and a dedicated intergovernmental platform, will support countries in building on the bilateral and sub-regional digital trade solutions they have already developed to achieve greater, region-wide paperless trade. By enabling exchange and legal recognition of trade data and documents, it could reduce trade costs by 25 per cent across the Asia-Pacific region and support more seamless and resilient trade.

Moreover, the policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are having a significant impact on the cost of trading goods across borders.