Digital technologies and trade

Trade facilitation

Bureaucratic delays at borders are burdensome and add to trade costs. Trade facilitation — the simplification, modernization, and harmonization of import, export, and transit processes — is therefore an important issue for the world trading system. The Trade Facilitation Agreement, which entered into force in 2017, contains provisions to expedite the movement, release, and clearance of goods, including through electronic means.

Trade Facilitation Agreement

WTO members concluded negotiations at the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference on the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which entered into force on 22 February 2017 following its ratification by two-thirds of the WTO membership. As well as containing provisions to expedite the movement of goods across borders, it sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other border authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues.

Many members are already implementing this Agreement in full, however, developing and least developed country members can decide when they will implement each of the 36 provisions based on their capacity. To take advantage of this flexibility, a member must notify its implementation date for each provision, as well as any needs for implementation support.

The Agreement contains several provisions that require, or encourage, the use of digital technology, such as publication of information and forms on the internet, electronic payment of duties and charges, and a single window for submission of import, export, and transit documentation.

Most provisions of this Agreement are implemented more effectively with the use of technology, even basic technology. For example, email would enhance the exchange of information between border agencies, and the distribution of information through an enquiry point.

The more advanced technologies such as blockchain, the internet of things, data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning can greatly enhance the sharing, collection, analysis, and use of data which is important for many trade facilitation measures.

These technologies are already being used by customs administrations to verify certifications of origin, to improve risk management and customs audit, increase efficiency in customs clearance, and reduce manual procedures.

However, implementation of the advanced technologies can be costly and challenging. Before implementing a member should evaluate the technologies and the needs of the border agencies and create a technology plan, with input from the private sector.





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