Cross-border paperless trade has great potential to not only grow trade competitiveness but also to address new
challenges associated with e-commerce and the digital economy. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for
Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in collaboration with the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)
and the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), today launched an interactive guide to support readiness assessments on
cross-border paperless trade.
The Online Readiness Assessment Guide for Cross-border Paperless Trade is designed to support countries in the region to conduct self-assessments of legal and technical readiness on
cross-border paperless trade. With the new guide, countries have at their disposal, comprehensive guides on how to
conduct readiness assessments, without the need for intensive physical travelling of experts. They will also be able to
interact virtually with experts for further guidance on conducting readiness assessment on a request basis.
“The guide being launched today is expected to support member States in conducting self-assessments of their legal and
technical readiness for cross-border paperless trade, as a first step towards developing a concrete action plan for
implementation. The Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, that
the guide is supporting the implementation of, is designed so that countries at all levels of development and
digitalization can participate, leaving no one behind. I urge all member States to complete ratification as soon as
possible,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana
at the launch.
“The Online Readiness Assessment Guide for Cross-border Paperless Trade is an important diagnostic tool to identify
opportunities for adopting laws and regulations that enable paperless trade. UNCITRAL texts are a core component of that
legal environment. The importance of taking prompt action in this area has recently been highlighted by the discussions
on how to mitigate the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are pleased to have cooperated with ESCAP and EIF
in preparing this Online Guide and look forward to work with all concerned partners to support States in this critical
endeavor,” shared Ms. Anna Joubin-Bret, Secretary, UNCITRAL.
“The potential benefits from digitalization of trade processes are substantial. The online interactive guide on
cross-border paperless trade will be instrumental in supporting countries to assess their technical and legal gaps in
electronic exchange of trade data and documents with other trading partners. We look forward to working with our
partners, including ESCAP, to support least developed countries in the region to strengthen their institutional capacity
and harmonize data standards towards the vision of an Asia-Pacific paperless trading environment,” said the Executive
Director of the Executive Secretariat for the EIF, Dr. Ratnakar Adhikari.
Readiness assessments on cross-border paperless trade support implementation of the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific
, which will soon enter into force on 20 February 2021. Five countries – Azerbaijan, Philippines, Islamic Republic of
Iran, Bangladesh and China - have thus far ratified or acceded to this UN treaty. In addition, Armenia and Cambodia have
signed in 2017, with several more in the process of completing their domestic processes for accession.
The treaty, with its common set of general principles and a dedicated intergovernmental platform, will support countries
in building on the bilateral and subregional digital trade solutions they have already developed to achieve greater,
region-wide paperless trade. By enabling exchange and legal recognition of trade data and documents, it could reduce
trade costs by 25 per cent across the Asia-Pacific region and support more seamless and resilient trade.
Moreover, the policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are having a significant impact on the cost of trading goods
across borders. Despite measures taken by many countries to keep goods moving across borders, ESCAP research
reveals that international trade costs faced by importers and exporters in the region are expected to rise by 7 per
cent on average this year, with some facing increases in costs exceeding 20 per cent.
The new guide is relevant to all countries globally, as it can support the implementation of not only the treaty but
also the full digital implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
The Online Readiness Assessment Guide resulted from strong partnerships and continuous efforts in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. It is based on legal
and technical readiness assessment checklists developed by the Interim Intergovernmental Steering Group on Cross-border
Paperless Trade Facilitation at ESCAP and its Legal and Technical Working Groups, with contributions from the United
Nations Network of Experts for Paperless Trade and Transport in Asia and the Pacific (UNNExT). It benefited from the
legal expertise on e-commerce of the UNCITRAL, as well as support from the EIF under a joint project on facilitating
cross-border trade in LDCs for sustainable development. It also incorporates lessons learned from other ESCAP trade
facilitation projects funded by China, the Russian Federation as well as the Republic of Korea.
Access the readiness guide and tool here: https://readiness.digitalizetrade.org/