The 8th Asia-Pacific Trade Facilitation Forum closed in Yogyakarta, Indonesia on 6 September 2017 with a strong focus on innovations and digital solutions that can enhance trade facilitation implementation for inclusive and sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region.

Organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and hosted by the Indonesian Government, the Forum examined ways to improve trade facilitation through measures such as e-commerce, institutional cooperation, support for SMEs and agricultural trade, in order to boost competitiveness and economic growth in the region.

United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Dr. Shamshad Akhtar said, “Trade facilitation is about making trade easier for all. Countries need to work closer together to streamline and digitalize trade procedures. This will contribute to sustainable development by making trade more inclusive and environmentally responsible.”

Over 250 participants from nearly 30 countries gathered to discuss rethinking trade facilitation reform for sustainable development, building on global and regional initiatives such as the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), and the Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, a new UN treaty finalized last year at ESCAP to support the digitalization of trade procedures.

“Going beyond basic compliance with the WTO TFA towards achieving paperless trade can help reduce trade costs in the region by an additional 7 per cent,” said Dr. Akhtar. “The new regional UN treaty on paperless trade can support this process. Bangladesh, Cambodia and China formally signed it last week, and I look forward to more countries joining before the end of the month.”

ESCAP and ADB also launched a joint publication this week entitled Trade Facilitation and Better Connectivity for an Inclusive Asia and Pacific. The report highlights the benefits of trade facilitation in the region and the need for more regional cooperation on cross-border paperless trade, based on the latest results of a UN Global Survey on Trade Facilitation and Paperless Trade Implementation.

The Asia-Pacific Trade Facilitation Forum has become the primary regional platform to exchange information, experiences and practices for trade facilitation, identify priority areas for regional cooperation and integration, and learn about new tools and services which can increase the efficiency of cross-border transactions.

Source: WTO TFAF