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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

27 April 2022

ES_ESCAP

Distinguished representatives,

Good morning and greetings from Jakarta, Indonesia,

Welcome to the very first session of the Paperless Trade Council.  

We gather here today to start implementing the treaty, the first multilateral agreement dedicated entirely to the facilitation of cross-border paperless trade.  

Distinguished representatives, 

The COVID-19 pandemic has seriously disrupted global supply chains and accentuated the importance of international trade as a key means of implementation of sustainable development.  

The crisis has shown how access to essential supplies depended on efficient cross-border trade procedures, enabling food, medical equipment, vaccines and other critical goods to be delivered in a timely manner.  

As the pandemic continues and new crises unfold, accelerating the implementation of trade facilitation measures and digitalizing procedures is more crucial than ever to make trade more resilient and inclusive in our region. 

Despite increasing acceptance of electronic documents across borders since the onset of the pandemic, the implementation of cross-border paperless trade remains low.  

According to the latest United Nations Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation, cross-border paperless trade measures are the least implemented of all Surveyed measures, both globally and regionally. This is essentially because they cannot be implemented unilaterally.  

Achieving the seamless and secure flow of trade documents across borders has remained elusive in most cases. As the experience of the ASEAN Single Window has shown, it requires strong political will to cooperate within and across borders, as well as detailed and focused legal and technical discussions to address the many bottlenecks.  

Against this backdrop, the start of the Paperless Trade Council is evidence of our region’s high-level commitment, vision and leadership in digitalizing trade procedures.  

Successful Implementation of cross-border paperless trade requires consistent and sustained collaboration to develop the necessary paperless trade solutions.  

The Framework Agreement is designed to create a neutral and dedicated space to develop and test these solutions, building on national, bilateral and subregional initiatives.  

The latest estimates by the Asian Development Bank and ESCAP suggest that it can help reduce trade costs by more than 13 per cent in the region. 

Unlike many other international treaties, the Framework Agreement is an action-oriented treaty. It has a provision on institutional arrangements for establishing different levels of bodies for its implementation, including the Council, Standing Committee and working groups.  

With this arrangement, the parties are expected to meet regularly to jointly work on actions and issues for facilitating cross-border paperless trade.  

The Framework Agreement also contains provisions requiring parties to set action plans for facilitating cross-border paperless trade individually and collectively.  

While the Council, as the apex body of the Framework Agreement, is not expected to discuss detailed tasks in the current session, I hope you can review the preparatory work done earlier by the Interim Intergovernmental Steering Group and provide strategic guidance to the soon-to-be-established Standing Committee on the development of concrete and innovative implementation actions.  

As you draft operational rules and procedures for the various bodies that will guide the implementation of the Framework Agreement, I encourage you to consider how you can help as many member States as possible to become parties, which will make it more relevant for the region.  

I also encourage you to consider how to foster collaboration with all relevant international organizations and development partners, which can contribute to the effective implementation of the Framework Agreement.  

The Council may also consider relevant amendments that will strengthen the treaty as an open, multilateral platform for capacity building and the development of inclusive paperless trade solutions that can make the region more resilient and sustainable. 

You may also wish to consider how relevant outputs that will be produced under the treaty, including guidelines and innovative solutions, can be made available outside the immediate treaty membership.  

Making them openly available will promote regional and global interoperability in international trade transactions.  

Distinguished representatives, 

As I highlighted at the outset, the Council, in this first session, is setting the stage for the implementation of the Framework Agreement.  

I sincerely hope that the Council successfully concludes its session with a fruitful outcome for each of the issues before it. 

I would like to conclude my remarks by wishing you a very succesful session. 

Thank you very much. 

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