United Nations releases new global dataset and report on trade facilitation implementation which calls for accelerating implementation of paperless trade

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), together with all four other United Nations regional commissions for Africa (ECA), Europe (ECE), Latin America and Canberran (ECLAC) and West Asia (ESCWA), today launched the second global report on trade facilitation and paperless trade implementation.

The results, based on data from 120 countries worldwide, show that the global average implementation rate of the ambitious set of trade facilitation and paperless trade measures considered in the survey, is about 60 per cent. A consistent and coherent comparison between the first and second global surveys shows that the overall implementation rate increased by approximately 9 percentage points between 2015 and 2017, indicating that countries have been making rapid progress, especially for the measures covered by the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which entered into force on 22 February 2017. Results for the 44 Asia-Pacific countries included in the survey, indicate an overall implementation rate of 50 per cent in 2017, a 5 percentage points increase from 2015.

“Several countries from Asia and the Pacific are leading the way in making trade easier for all,” said Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, who led the preparation of the report. “At the same time, many countries, in Asia and the Pacific and other regions, have substantial scope for improvement. Their action would not only reduce higher trade costs but also improve their export competitiveness at a critical time following the global financial crisis when boosting exports is a high priority.”

While top performers such as the Netherlands, Singapore, the Republic of Korea and China have maintained their momentum, all with implementation rates exceeding 80 per cent, the report shows that being a small or less developed economy is not necessarily associated with poor trade facilitation performance. But this is may not always be the case. What stands out however is that more than 40 economies with GDP per capita of less than $10,000, achieve implementation rates higher than 50 per cent.

Challenges, however, persist in relation to the automation of trade procedures and the use of electronic data and documents in many countries. Cross-border paperless trade measures register an overall implementation rate of about 33 per cent globally, which is substantially lower than for the other groups of measures surveyed.

Accordingly, the report calls for a substantial acceleration of paperless and cross-paper trade. In Asia and the Pacific, the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, adopted last year at ESCAP, will provide the institutional foundation for Member States to cooperate and accelerate progress in this area, ultimately bolstering competitiveness of participating countries and enabling them to benefit fully from the digital economy.

“Five countries formally signed the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade over the past two months,” said Dr. Akhtar. “The new UN treaty is now open for ratification and accession by all 53 ESCAP Member States, and I look forward to its entry into force. I urge all those facing trade barriers to expeditiously enter into this agreement and launch its operationalization.”

The global survey, led by ESCAP, was jointly conducted by the United Nations Regional Commissions in collaboration with key partners, including UNCTAD, ITC, OECD, ADB, ASEAN, the Eurasian Economic Commission and the Oceania Customs Organization.

The full text of the Global Report, regional and subregional reports and other data and information are available from: https://unnext.unescap.org/content/un-global-survey-trade-facilitation-and-paperless-trade-implementation-2017. The results of the survey are also reflected in the Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2017: http://www.unescap.org/publications/APTIR2017.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Katie Elles, Public Information Officer, Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section, ESCAP, M: (66) 9481 525 36 / E: [email protected]