Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to join you for this opening session of the Global Forum 2022 for National Trade Facilitation Committees.
With the recurring disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerating the implementation of trade facilitation reforms is more crucial than ever to ensure that trade can play its role as a key means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Efficient and transparent trade procedures are essential for making trade more inclusive and minimizing the negative impacts transportation of goods across borders can have on the environment.
In this time of the pandemic, the public and private sectors need to work together to ensure that essential supplies such as medicines and vaccines reach their destinations in a timely manner.
Coordination among the many stakeholders involved is crucial, making National Trade Facilitation Committees and this Forum particularly relevant.
ESCAP and the other UN regional commissions conduct a joint Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation every two years. We are pleased to present the global report summarizing the results of the 2021 Survey during this Forum.
The results are encouraging. Countries across the globe have continued to make progress on implementing trade facilitation measures during the pandemic, especially on digitalizing international trade formalities.
However, challenges persist. Despite significant progress over the past two years, the implementation of cross-border paperless trade is still low.
It is estimated that full digital trade facilitation implementation could cut the average trade cost by more than 13 per cent. This would be seven percentage points more than what could be expected from simply achieving compliance with the WTO TFA measures.
Strong political will and closer intergovernmental cooperation are needed to further progress trade digitalization as an important element of countries’ digital transformation efforts.
The report also highlights the lack of implementation of sustainable trade facilitation measures. Few countries take into account the specific trade facilitation needs of small and medium-sized enterprises and women in business.
To address this, ESCAP is spearheading the development of an online course on Next-Generation Trade Facilitation, specifically focusing on trade facilitation measures for SMEs, women and for the agricultural sector. I hope these measures will become a priority for NTFCs in the future.
In collaboration with UNCTAD, we are also looking at how countries can reduce the impact of trade procedures and trade compliance mechanisms on climate change and the environment. Early work points, again, to trade digitalization as a way to reduce waste and CO2 emissions from overly complex and paper-intensive formalities.
Our research shows that achieving paperless trade on a global scale would be equivalent to planting more than 1 billion trees.
Looking ahead, it will be important to ensure that the progress made on trade digitalization and the acceptance of electronic documents during the crisis are secured. Strengthening of legal frameworks and implementing long-term digital and sustainable trade facilitation plans will help build resilience and enhance preparedness for future crises.
Countries should continue and sustain efforts to strengthen cooperation to adapt to the increasingly digital global economy while leaving no one behind.
I encourage all leaders to take advantage of all available global and regional mechanisms to make progress, such as the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement as well as the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, which is an enabling and forward-looking UN treaty that entered into force last year.
I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to all our sister regional commissions for their collaboration on the global report, and to UNCTAD, ICC, ADB, ASEAN, Oceania Customs Organisation, CAREC Program, and so many other organizations and experts for the excellent cooperation during its preparation.
I look forward to continued partnership to make trade simpler, cheaper, more resilient and sustainable.
Thank you very much.