The International Trade Centre (ITC) and Huawei Technologies have launched a new study – ‘Faster Customs, Faster Trade – Using Technology for Trade Facilitation’ – which explores the interplay between international trade in information and communication technology (ICT) solutions and their use in implementing the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
Unveiled on 11 September at the ITC World Export Development Forum in Lusaka, Zambia, the joint study sets out how governments and other stakeholders can better leverage the use of ICT products to facilitate cross-border trade, and vice versa. It finds that, since the finalization of the WTO’s Internet Technology Agreement (ITA) in 1996, increased trade in ICT related goods and services has increased universal access to ICT products and services and made them more affordable. The ITA can now help countries in their efforts to implement other international trade agreements, including the WTO TFA.
The study explores how ICT products have driven economic growth in many countries over the past three decades, while at the same time playing a key role in increasing social progress and living standards. However, the study also finds that a digital divide has surfaced, with some developing and less-developed countries suffering a lack of exposure to ICT products and services. This has fuelled economic and social inequality in access and utilization, preventing some countries from benefiting from the potential positive impact of ICT.
The study explores how to use ICT tools and applications to simplify customs processes and promote transparency, which will help governments move towards smarter governance. The study suggests, using Huawei’s experience, how full implementation of the TFA will reduce global average customs clearance by three days and argues that this will help micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) become more competitive in international markets.
MSMEs often suffer the most from market inefficiencies, aggravating the digital divide, the study argues. It suggest that the implementation of the WTO TFA – which calls for better and smarter use of ICT solutions to reduce the cost and time of cross-border trade – could play a crucial part in bridging this gap through greater support for companies and institutions that need it most.
Commenting on the study, ITC Executive Director Arancha González, said: “The complimentary interplay between ICT and implementation of the TFA is vital for increasing trade across borders. Taking better advantage of advances in technology will help reinvigorate trade and boost inclusive and sustainable economic growth especially for less developed countries and for MSMEs.”
The ‘Faster Customs, Faster Trade – Using Technology for Trade’ study emphasizes the role ICT solutions play in trade facilitation, such as the role that the authorized operator scheme, can play in fast-tracking the implementation of the WTO TFA. It also provides industry insights from Huawei Technologies on how the company has benefited from such technological reforms in the countries it trades with.
The Head of Huawei Trade Facilitation and Market access, Sheng Kai, said: “Trade in Africa is booming and global trade worldwide continues to grow, too. At the same time, technology is changing rapidly, with large trends having a huge impact on global commerce. In order to achieve the full potential of digital trade, future trade policies need to take into consideration how to best use ICT technology to enable smoother cross-border trade.”