ESCAP´s Development Solution

Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific

Program in a Nutshell

Created in 2016


  • Capacity Building and Development


Women digital empowerment

Geographical scope​

Regional Economic Status

Partner : ESCAP

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The Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific is a UN treaty that reflects the voices of the ESCAP member states. The implementation of this agreement can provide a strong boost to the region’s prosperity, significantly reducing transaction costs and supporting economies in their digital transformation efforts. The Framework is first and foremost an enabling and inclusive platform to accelerate cooperation on trade digitalization, and one that is fully neutral as a UN instrument.

Regardless of any country’s status on paperless trade initiatives, joining this multilateral treaty is a strategic move and can help address the issues associated with a growing noodle bowl of initiatives in this area. It will promote best practices, establish regional norms in cross-border paperless trade based on existing international standards, and provide much-needed support to advance paperless trade, especially for small or least developed economies. ESCAP will prioritize technical assistance and capacity building for countries that have acceded to the Framework Agreement, in close coordination with all willing development partners.

The launch of the “Cross-border Paperless Trade Toolkit” jointly developed by ESCAP, the World Trade Organization, and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, indicates that the work being done under this agreement can benefit everyone, and be an effective building block for global acceleration and cooperation on trade digitalization.

More information on the treaty is available at


  • Capacity Building and Development

    • The Treaty itself strongly encourages capacity building and South-South cooperation. Article 14.1 encourages technical support among parties to facilitate the Framework Agreement’s implementation. Article 14.3 prioritizes technical assistance for underdeveloped and landlocked countries to enhance their paperless trade capabilities and leverage the agreement’s benefits.


  • More countries join UN treaty to advance cross-border paperless trade in Asia and the Pacific

    • The COVID-19 pandemic not only had huge disruptions in international trade and supply chains, but also underscored the importance of digital technology and of finding new ways of doing business. Almost all international trade today is facilitated and enabled by digital and communication technologies.

      To this end, the Republic of Korea, Tajikistan, and Tuvalu recently acceded to the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, more than doubling its membership to 11 countries between 2021 and 2022.

      This is the first UN agreement dedicated entirely to accelerating the implementation of digital trade facilitation measures for trade and development and demonstrates the Asia-Pacific region’s strong political will and leadership in digitalizing trade procedures. Membership in the treaty is diverse and inclusive, covering least developed countries such as Timor-Leste, landlocked developing countries such as Mongolia, and leading economies such as China.

      Full implementation of the Framework Agreement is expected to reduce trade costs by 13 per cent on average across the region, ranging from 7 per cent in developed economies to 26 per cent in Pacific islands. Additional benefits associated with the cross-border digitalization of trade procedures include reductions in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to planting 400 million trees, and increased transparency for addressing illicit financial flows.

      ESCAP Standing Committee of the Framework Agreement

      In December 2022, the Standing Committee of the Framework Agreement also met for the first time to initiate implementation of the treaty since its entry into force in February 2021. The meeting discussed concrete actions and collaboration among partner countries as well as engaged development partners and the private sector which will be instrumental for the implementation of the treaty.

For Whom

Policy makersMSMEsSMEsResearchersExpertsDecision makers


  • National agencies or bodies

    • Ministry of Commerce
    • Customs
    • Border crossing agencies
  • Regional organizations

    • Asian Development Bank
    • ASEAN
  • Regional economic commissions

    • ECA
    • ECE
    • ECLAC
    • ESCWA
  • Regional development banks

    • Asian Development Bank
  • International organizations

    • World Bank
    • World Customs Organization
    • International Chamber of Commerce