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Transport infrastructure in ESCAP region is steadily developing. The Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network (entered into force on 4 July 2005) and the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Trans-Asian Railway Network (expected to enter into force in the first half of 2008) are two essential pillars in strengthening economic links between countries.

Infrastructure alone however would not facilitate the movement of people and goods between countries if non-physical impediments are not removed. Efforts to facilitate transport are paramount to the smooth movement of goods and people especially in international traffic, as transport facilitation contributes to the diminishing of the economic distance to markets. Transport facilitation can only serve its purpose if based on harmonized legislation, institutions, and practices, at national, sub-regional, regional and international level.

Effective transport facilitation in the ESCAP region calls for the development of new legal frameworks taking account of regional peculiarities and providing opportunities for the adaptation of existing laws and regulations, through good relationships, mutual trust, confidence and mutual benefits for all the parties concerned.

The present study “Towards a Harmonized Legal Regime on Transport Facilitation in the ESCAP Region” is meant to provide guidelines to support the effort of ESCAP member countries in their endeavor towards harmonization, especially in facilitation of international land transport/transit. Chapter I of the study explains why a harmonized legal regime on transport facilitation is needed and the main ways to bring laws closer, chapter II introduces the most relevant international legal instruments, chapter III explains the importance of subregional transport facilitation agreements as stepping stones towards regional harmonization, chapter IV proposes a standard approach for bilateral agreements and chapter V contains concluding remarks and suggestions.

The document is based on valuable work done by other organizations, notably the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and on previous work done by the ESCAP secretariat.