Countries kick off implementation of first-ever international agreement on facilitation of cross-border paperless trade

Countries today started implementing the first United Nations agreement dedicated entirely to accelerating cross-border trade digitalization at the first session of the Paperless Trade Council, convened in Bangkok under ESCAP auspices.

The Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific is a UN treaty developed by ESCAP member States to accelerate the implementation of digital trade facilitation measures for trade and development.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has seriously disrupted global supply chains and accentuated the importance of international trade as a key means of implementation of sustainable development,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP. “As the pandemic continues and new crises unfold, accelerating the implementation of trade facilitation measures and digitalizing procedures is more crucial than ever to make trade more resilient and inclusive in Asia and the Pacific.”

The start of the Paperless Trade Council demonstrates the Asia-Pacific region’s high-level commitment and leadership in digitalizing trade procedures. The Chair of the meeting, Mr. Mohammed Abdul Hye, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to ESCAP, noted the importance of the Agreement in economic development and encouraged delegations to speak about the benefits of digitalization. As successful implementation of cross-border paperless trade requires sustained collaboration to develop the necessary legal and technical solutions, the neutral and dedicated space provided by the Framework Agreement will facilitate these efforts. Full implementation of the treaty is expected to decrease trade cost by over 13 per cent on average across the region.

Unlike many other international treaties, the Framework Agreement is action-oriented and includes a provision on institutional arrangements for establishing different levels of bodies for its implementation, including the Council, Standing Committee and working groups, encouraging parties to meet regularly to jointly work on actions and issues for facilitating cross-border paperless trade.

The Framework Agreement entered into force on 20 February 2021, in accordance with Article 19, as five ESCAP member States (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, Islamic Republic of Iran and the Philippines) ratified or acceded to it. Timor-Leste became the sixth Party when it acceded on 5 April 2022. Several other countries in the region are expected to finalize accession in the coming months.

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