Digital-economy integration through digital trade is seen as a key priority by many developing countries towards sustainable growth in the 21st century. The ESCAP Committee on Trade and Investment, at its seventh session in January 2021, has requested the ESCAP secretariat to deepen its analysis of existing conventional and digital trade rules and regulations, as well as to provide support to smaller economies and least developed countries including the development of pragmatic policy recommendations and capacity-building, technology transfer and the initiation of a study on the impact of the harmonization of digital trade rules and regulations on the effective participation of those countries in e-commerce and digital trade.
In this context, ESCAP, in collaboration with OECD, has established the ESCAP-OECD Initiative on Digital Trade Regulatory Analysis. Its objective is to maintain a database on digital-trade regulations for Asia and the Pacific, to be used in developing tools for policymakers and analysts in the region to compare, benchmark, and formulate evidence-based policy strategies and foster collaboration and harmonization of digital trade-related regulatory frameworks for a more inclusive and sustainable development of the region.
ESCAP and OECD have provided technical support and training to regional researchers to collect data and information on regulations since the last quarter of 2020. The data collection is made on the basis of ESCAP’s Regional Digital Trade Integration Index (RDTII) and OECD’s Digital Services Trade Restrictiveness Index (DSTRI) guidelines. ESCAP will seek support from the government of each country concerned to verify the factual accuracy of the data collected. Nominated official focal points will receive the draft databases for comments. Follow-up calls or videoconferences may also be organized to explain the scope of the exercise and provide further details as needed.
The finalized data will be used for further analysis and to develop related knowledge products. Subsets of the data will feed into the existing ESCAP’s RDTII and OECD’s DSTRI databases, as well as other relevant databases maintained by UN organizations. In consultation with official focal points, the data may also be used for further development of an online tool and training materials to build capacity for evidence-based policymaking in the related areas.