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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

01 April 2024

ES ESCAP

Excellency, Mr. Kudratov Laziz Shavkatovich, Minister of Investment, Industry and Trade of Uzbekistan,

Mr. Yingming Yang, Vice-President of the Asian Development Bank,

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to welcome you to the eleventh Asia-Pacific Trade Facilitation Forum. This year’s Forum is unique. In its 15 years of existence, it is the very first time the Forum is being held in Central Asia and in a landlocked developing country.

I wholeheartedly thank the Government of Uzbekistan for hosting the Forum in Samarkand, a city with such a rich history as a vital hub on the Silk Road, connecting China, Persia and Europe.

Its strategic location has facilitated trade and cultural exchange for centuries, and I cannot think of a more appropriate location for a Forum on trade facilitation.

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

International trade is recognized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a key means of implementation.

The role of trade in enabling growth and development has been particularly evident in the Asia-Pacific region, which is now established as an economic and trade powerhouse for the global economy.

However, Asia and the Pacific is a not a homogenous region, and most of the growth in trade over the past decades has taken place in East and South-East Asia.

Growing geopolitical tensions have also made international trade more difficult and unpredictable. Supply chains are not only transforming and reorganizing, creating challenges but also opportunities for countries to engage in new economic corridors and trade arrangements.

According to the latest data from our United Nations Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation, Central Asia has been catching up on the implementation of trade facilitation measures.

Uzbekistan is an outstanding example, with the country identified as a world leading reformer and implementer of measures to simplify and digitalize trade between 2021 and 2023.

This is certainly very encouraging, and I look forward to Uzbekistan and Central Asia playing an increasingly important role in this rapidly evolving trade and investment environment.

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

The Forum’s theme, “Leveraging Digitalization for Sustainable Supply Chains,” was chosen to provide an opportunity to tap the full potential of digital trade facilitation and paperless trade in connecting countries and achieving more inclusive and sustainable development.

As you are aware, progress on the Sustainable Development Goals at both the global and regional levels have been slow. Accelerating progress across all goals requires that they be mainstreamed in all policy and regulatory areas.

And there is ample evidence that streamlining and digitalizing trade procedures is key to making trade not only more inclusive but also reducing its potential negative impact on the environment.

In addition to the 11 per cent reduction in trade costs that may be expected from paperless trade implementation, ESCAP research shows  that achieving paperless trade in Asia and the Pacific would be equivalent to planting around 400 million trees.

Let  me conclude my remarks by encouraging all countries of the region that have not yet done so to join the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific and leverage this United Nations treaty to develop innovative and collaborative solutions in this important area.

Thank you very much.

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