UN/CEFACT helps global trade go digital – as shown in the WTO-ICC Standards Toolkit

Global trade has been transformed repeatedly throughout history, driven by new business processes and new policies. The new advances in digitalization now promise further transformation by making it faster, more transparent, reducing risks of red tape and corruption. With the increase in global trade, technology is at the core of every supply chain transaction. Through the simplification and harmonization of processes, procedures and information flows, UNECE and its subsidiary inter-governmental body UN/CEFACT contribute to the digitalization of trade and the growth of global commerce, as highlighted by the newly released WTO-ICC Standards Toolkit for Cross-border Paperless Trade.

Timely and harmonized standards can play a pivotal role in shaping the digital transformation process, complementing regulations and contributing to digital transformation governance. Standards have an impact on the economy through a wide range of channels. On the one hand, they provide technical information on products and services; on the other hand, they facilitate communication between different stakeholders. Furthermore, standards serve as accelerators of change as they promote innovation and the uptake of new digital technologies.

UNECE through UN/CEFACT serves as a focal point within the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for trade facilitation recommendations and electronic business standards. UN/CEFACT can help increase the effectiveness of international trade procedures, hence helping foster trade – much needed as a tool of economic recovery. Through its new generation of digital standards and artefacts UN/CEFACT provides interoperability for the digital exchange of data between modes of transport, sectors, companies, government agencies, and countries.

Here are the main instruments developed by UN/CEFACT emphasized in the WTO-ICC Toolkit, which support international trade:

  • FIATA Multimodal Bill of Lading (eFBL) data standard newly released by UNECE and the International Federation of Freight-Forwarders Associations (FIATA) – allows the exchange of BL data in a standardized way, facilitating interoperability between all modes of transport and industry stakeholders.
  • Mapping for IMO FAL requirements created by UNECE UN/CEFACT which is compatible with its Multi-Modal Transport Reference Data Model (MMT-RDM) – offers a source of reference to IMO FAL documents that are required for nearly all maritime transport consignments arriving at the port.
  • Buy-Ship-Pay Reference Data Model (BSP RDM) developed by UN/CEFACT – describes the main process and parties in the international supply chain and the relationship between the high-level data entities of the involved international sales and transport contracts.
  • Cross Industry Invoice (CII), developed by UN/CEFACT – provides an executive guide to helping governments, government agencies, industries, and private companies better understand how this e-invoicing standard can be used to improve the exchange of data.

The WTO-ICC Toolkit identifies standards that are currently available and widely recognized to help facilitate basic data sharing, reporting, due diligence, and compliance requirements. Out of 100 standards presented in the Toolkit, around 20 derive from frameworks and initiatives of UNECE. The aim of UNECE standards is seamless and highly efficient exchange of data, while limiting person-to-person contacts in the supply chain, with the use of United Nations standards and modern IT tools.

Multiple standards exist, developed by multiple organizations; what is lacking is an alignment of existing standards. In response to this challenge, this new WTO toolkit equips every supply chain participant, both public and private, with some of the most notable and widely used standards to help advance trade digitalization. In addition to this, UN/CEFACT aims to be a hub for the semantic base of such digitalization initiatives.

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