UN Meeting Promotes Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific

Streamlined border crossing procedures can increase efficiency and security

According to a recent UN study, paperless trade could save businesses more than half a billion dollars a year globally. The savings would come from streamlined customs procedures, thereby reducing delays at border crossings.

However, paperless trade requires trained customs and trade officials and traders in order to be effective. For this reason, The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in cooperation with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) will hold a workshop at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC) in Bangkok from 10 to 14 December. The workshop will provide hands-on training to customs officials, among others, on the use of electronic trade documents.

National case studies in e-single windows–a closely related trade facilitation measure–will also be featured at the workshop. E-single windows are a tool that allows traders to file documents at one location, which will then be shared by all regulatory agencies. Because they are standardized and computerized, trade documentation can be cleared faster, streamlining the process of releasing goods at the border.

“Skilled human resources are paramount to the successful implementation of e-single window and paperless trade environments, which are being largely implemented in the Asia-Pacific region. Such successful initiatives from our region could be internationalized and serve as good practices for other regions in the world.” stated Xuan Zengpei, Director of the Trade and Investment Division (TID) of ESCAP.

The participants at the workshop are expected to recommend establishing a regional network of experts on paperless trade to encourage the development of this expertise.

Paperless trade requires the adoption of standardized electronic documents which can be processed before cargo even arrives at an international border. The UN has developed international standards and tools for such documents, including the UN Layout Key for Trade Documents and the UN electronic Trade Document (UNeDocs).

In addition to numerous trade benefits, electronic trade documents can increase transparency, helping to fight corruption.