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UN/CEFACT standards and recommendations accelerate countries’ sustainable economic recovery

Containers in a port being loaded

In 2021, the volume of world merchandise trade is expected to increase by 8 per cent  after falling 5.3 per cent in 2020. How UN/CEFACT recommendations and e-business standards can help boost trade and e-commerce was one of the key topics of the 36th UN/CEFACT Forum, convened online, by UNECE over the last two weeks.

Close to 500 participants from more than 50 countries joined more than 25 virtual meetings to advance the work of the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) in developing the standards and recommendations to “build back better” and accelerate the sustainable and resilient recovery. Participants of the Forum also showcased the positive impact that UN/CEFACT standards and recommendations generated in their countries, covering a wide range of trade-related areas.

Single Window Portals

The online webinar on Single Window and COVID-19 demonstrated how countries benefited from the opportunities the Single Window system offered during the COVID-19 related closures. UN/CEFACT Recommendation 33 and Guidelines on Establishing a Single Window updated in 2020 outline benefits, key performance indicators, risks and post-implementation challenges for countries wishing to set up a Single Window. This easy-to-use recommendation streamlines collaboration between stakeholders and supports transition towards a digital economy.

The Single Window in the Kyrgyz Republic transferred permits for medical equipment and drugs for 308 million units during COVID-19. The portal introduced this measure at a crucial time when the country suffered from a lack of medicines, saving multiple lives. Following this successful practice, the Kyrgyz Single Window plans to develop a pre-information mechanism and risk management system. Following online submission of preliminary information by traders, state regulatory agencies will consider such information.

The Single Windows in Cameroon and Dominican Republic  intensified the usage of electronic procedures during COVID-19. The respective agencies organized a series of webinars on best practices, online training for users and accelerated implementation of remaining electronic procedures. Today, traders in Cameroon can obtain phytosanitary certificates and cocoa/coffee certificates of origin online.

Georgia’s Single Window for Custom Formalities reduces time for border crossing and custom formalities and prevents corruption. Currently the Single Window provides over 180 services from e-invoices and waybills to e-advance customs declaration. It also provides an import taxes duties calculator and information on permits needed for trade activities.

Trade Information Portals

Trade Information Portals played a key role in mitigating the negative impact of COVID-19 pandemic. In countries with an established portal, ministries could promptly notify traders about changes in trade policies, efficiently change control measures of import and exports of critical supplies and quickly respond to enquiries of stakeholders.

UN/CEFACT recommendations guide countries in building and operating successful portals. The newly updated Recommendation 38 on Trade Information Portals presents different models for establishing a portal and lists legal documents to published online. It also highlights the important factors for establishing a sustainable portal: strong lead agency, collaboration between partners, completeness and accuracy of information. These factors together with a user-centric design and  ongoing maintenance lead to a success of the portal.

Setting up a National Trade Information Portal also supports countries in disaster situations. UN/CEFACT Recommendation 44 on Cross-Border Facilitation Measures for Disaster Relief developed together with United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs guides countries in the immediate response in the first 15 days of a  disaster.

Transport and Logistics

The UN/CEFACT meeting of the transport and logistic domain presented the International forwarding and transport business requirements specification. This new business model and corresponding data model on forwarding and transportation message exchange fills the gap raised by the ongoing digitalization of supply chains or introduction of Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as smart containers and eCMR. The models are syntax-neutral, allowing for a wider interoperability. This will provide a trusted and standardized environment for efficient communication between actors in the supply chain.

The new UN/CEFACT Recommendation 45 on Minimum Standards for Ship Agents and Ship Brokers further empowers countries to advance maritime regulation. Some countries lack the relevant laws concerning the professions of a ship agent and a ship broker. This recommendation guides countries on minimum qualifications, education and trainings for these roles and ensures that maritime transport continues to operate effectively and efficiently.

Cross Industry Supply Chain Track and Trace

UN/CEFACT also assists countries to track and trace products or assets and to share information in standard electronic format. The White Paper on Integrated Track and Trace for Multimodal Transportation outlined the foundations for the upcoming work to develop a business requirement specification. It concerns monitoring and recording the current location and status of the traded goods once sent to a transport operator. It also covers the transport history of  traded goods from original consignor to final consignee regardless of the type of goods or the mode of transport.

To find out more information about UN/CEFACT and upcoming new projects in these areas, click here: https://unece.org/trade/uncefact.

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