Asian governments are urged to fully implement an existing global trade agreement and use digital technologies to speed up the recovery and avert future shocks to global trade.
In making the call, Asian Development Bank (ADB) said the Trade Facilitation Agreement, adopted by the World Trade Organisation in 2017, intended to cut down the amount of red tape involved in moving goods across borders.
It said the agreement aims to expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods by improving transparency and governance, streamlining and modernising border procedures, and enhancing the movement of goods in transit.
“Ramping up ongoing national efforts to implement this agreement could reduce trade costs for economies in Asia Pacific substantially.
“On top of that, making full use of digital technologies could cut costs even further,” it said in its blog yesterday.
ADB said the Covid-19 pandemic has provided hard-earned lessons about global supply chains, as disruptions led to shortages of critical goods from medical supplies to food.
It attributed the failure in international supply chains for medical supplies to the geographic concentration of major manufacturers of vaccines and personal protective equipment; export bans on medical supplies and key raw materials; as well as restriction on transportation movement.
“A recent survey shows that implementation of the agreement is raising transparency, streamlining border formalities, and enhancing institutional arrangement and cooperation across the region.
“However, it also shows that implementation of cross-border paperless trade is lagging. Many bilateral paperless trade mechanisms remain in the pilot stage or in early development,” it said.
On digital technologies, ADB said while the pandemic has accelerated the transition to paperless trading, greater use of information and communication technologies is needed to streamline customs procedures and electronic exchange of information, implement national and regional “single windows” for document submissions and clearance, and introduce e-registration of travel documents.
For instance, all members of Asean have joined the Asean Single Window live operation, exchanging certificates of origin under the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement preferential tariff arrangement.
However, this needs to be expanded to areas such as exchange of e-documents related to phytosanitary, animal health, and food safety certificates, it added.
Fully implement global trade agreement, digital technologies