A new UN survey underlines the need for inclusive policies and greater international cooperation to ease trade for the benefit of all

GENEVA, 15th September, 2023 (WAM) — A new UN survey underlines the need for inclusive policies and greater international cooperation to ease trade for the benefit of all.

Despite geopolitical tensions and supply chain disruptions, countries continue to improve the trading environment by simplifying and digitalising trade processes.

According to the UN’s fifth global survey on digital and sustainable trade facilitation, an average of 68.6 percent — up by 6 percent since 2021 – of the general and digital trade facilitation measures outlined in the landmark Trade Facilitation Agreement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have been implemented by countries worldwide.

The survey analyses trade facilitation progress across 161 countries worldwide, as outlined in the “Digital and sustainable trade facilitation: Global report 2023” launched on 15th September. It covers some 60 trade facilitation measures grouped under 11 categories.

These include transparency, formalities, institutional arrangement and cooperation, transit facilitation, cross-border paperless trade, trade facilitation for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), agricultural trade facilitation, women in trade facilitation, trade finance and trade facilitation in times of crisis.

The survey shows that developed economies have implemented the most trade facilitation measures, leading the global pack with an overall rate of 85.3 percent.

In comparison, 54 out of 90, or 60 percent of developing countries with a GDP per capita below US$10,000 have achieved implementation rates of over 50 percent.

The average implementation rates for least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing states are similar, ranging between 53 percent and 61 percent – significantly below the global average.

This is in part due to persisting challenges related to weaker digital infrastructure and a lack of adequate legal framework to support cross-border data and documents exchanges.

The results reaffirm the need to step up technical assistance and capacity-building efforts to help these vulnerable economies bridge the existing implementation gap in trade facilitation.

On the different categories of measures, countries scored highest in efforts to enhance transparency, with an implementation rate of nearly 80 percent.

With digitalisation on the rise, paperless trade has improved the most over the past two years, averaging globally at 68.8 percent.

Despite the low adoption of cross-border paperless trade measures, pegged at a global average of 45.43 percent, the survey highlights substantial improvements in areas such as e-transaction laws and electronic exchange of sanitary and phytosanitary certificates. The survey also makes a case for more sustainable trade facilitation measures benefiting SMEs, agricultural sector entities and women traders.

Globally, SMEs on average have implemented 43.33 percent of trade facilitation measures. The average rate for agricultural entities is about 64 percent.

“By placing an emphasis on inclusive policies, embracing digitalisation and fostering stronger international collaboration, we can establish a trade landscape that benefits everyone and leaves no one behind,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, UNCTAD’s director of technology and logistics.