Asia-Pacific governments urged to cut red tape in trade to stay competitive amidst global economic uncertainty

Asia-Pacific countries must simplify trade procedures to facilitate international trade and stay competitive at a time of global economic uncertainty, over 200 trade officials and experts from 34 countries told a regional trade facilitation forum here.

If the world economy slows down significantly, the Asia-Pacific region which has become the factory of the world will have to trade more efficiently in the face of severe price competition. For this, governments must work closely with all stakeholders to simplify international trade procedures and ensure that regulations are simple, consistent and transparent, said the 4-5 October Asia-Pacific Trade Facilitation Forum 2011.

Senior Asia-Pacific government officials, trade facilitation service providers, trade experts and international agencies working on trade facilitation issues attended the annual event organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia (ESCAP), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Participants noted that a large proportion of trade transactions involve business-to-business exchange of information and documents, and these procedures are also often complex and inefficient.
“Compared to competitors, if exporters of your country need a couple of more forms to be filled, along with a few more stamps and signatures, and a couple of more days to complete these trade procedures, they may just not be able to compete anymore – your country could simply lose the export market,” Dr. Ravi Ratnayake, Director, ESCAP Trade and Investment Division, told the Forum.
Participants underlined the important role of subregional cooperation for trade facilitation, especially for the 12 Asia-Pacific Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) for whom transit bottlenecks to the nearest port are a major hurdle to engage in international trade.

The Forum also called for better coordination between Asia-Pacific governments and international organizations to facilitate transit access for LLDCs, four of which are also among the 13 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the region.

“Subregional cooperation on transit is not only good economics as it would increase trade flows for all countries, but also good politics in a rapidly integrating world,” Dr. Ratnayake said.
The ADB is facilitating intraregional trade and transport, Ying Qian, Lead Regional Cooperation Specialist, ADB told the meeting. “More focus is now given to soft components of infrastructure development, such as optimizing the benefits from investments in transport projects by also addressing legal issues and administrative procedures that hinder, delay or increase the cost of moving goods across international borders.”

The Forum has made a range of recommendations to speed up trade facilitation at national, subregional and regional levels. These include promoting regional cooperation on trade and transit facilitation, undertaking regular business process analysis on economic corridors to assess developmental gaps, strengthening coordination of government agencies at the border, as well as strengthening national and regional level monitoring of trade facilitation performance.

The participants also emphasized the need for implementation tools for paperless trade as developed by the United Nations Network of Experts for Paperless Trade (UNNExT) in Asia and the Pacific, and related training for government officials and technical experts of developing countries in the region.

The Forum was part of a week-long trade facilitation capacity building activities and was hosted by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, Republic of Korea, the Korea International Trade Association, and Korea Trade Network. Other partners include the World Bank, World Customs Organization, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

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