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COVID-19 Response

Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business Resources for COVID-19 Response

The COVID-19 pandemic has evolved from a health crisis into an economic crisis causing major disruption in global trade. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and its subsidiary inter-governmental body - the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) have a number of recommendations, standards, tools and resources that can be used to address the immediate and long-term challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to facilitate global trade. The aim of this website is to provide a non-exhaustive list of such resources on trade facilitation and digitalization.

It is noteworthy that many existing recommendations, standards, guidelines and capacity-building project activities can be used to stop the spread of COVID-19 as well as help trade recovery. In addition, new guidelines and reports have been published since the outbreak. New resources are in the pipeline and eventually more of them will be added to this page. In general, the resources are targeted towards both the public (governments and international bodies) and private (enterprises, entities) actors.

Reports

  • Report on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on international trade and logistics and the ways advanced technologies can help overcome such disruptions
    Report was developed by the Advisory Group on Advanced Technologies in trade and logistics to identify main ways how new technologies can help overcome COVID-19 related trade disruptions.
  • Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation: UNECE Regional Report 2019
    The survey (ECE/TRADE/448) results allow the countries to monitor progress in the implementation of measures for sustainable and digital trade facilitation and serve as evidence base for policy making helping to identify areas where efforts are most needed to address the remaining policy, legal, regulatory and technical obstacles as well as needs for capacity-building and technical assistance. The member States can benefit from other countries’ experiences and learn from good practices. Adding to the existing UN Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation is an additional survey component on TF measures in times of epidemic for the survey in 2021.
  • Briefing note on the importance of Semantics within Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business for SDG 17
    This Briefing Note (ECE/TRADE/C/CEFACT/2019/27) provides the basis of moving from paper-based transactions to electronic transactions and the key success factors to achieve this. In order to ensure coherence and harmonization between the electronic solution which are developed, this Note underlines the importance of using clear semantic standards, ensuring that all actors understand the same information in the same way. Enabling electronic exchanges can contribute to reducing human contact and thus assist in reducing the spread of viruses such as COVID-19.

Recommendations

  • UNECE Recommendation 33 on Single Window
    A Single Window is defined as a facility that allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardized information and documents with a single-entry point to fulfil all import, export, and transit-related regulatory requirements. A Single Window establishes cooperation between government agencies which contribute to maintaining cross-border activities in situations like the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • UNECE Recommendation 37 on Single Submission Portals
    This Recommendation outlines a private-sector-driven solution which streamlines procedures at the border and connect traders to all relevant agencies through a single portal. It can cover both regulatory processes and commercial processes and thus contribute to maintaining cross-border activities in situations like the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • UNECE Recommendation 14 on Authentication of Trade Documents
    This Recommendation reminds that the authentication method of any document should be in direct correlation with the sensitivity of the content and the relationship between the stakeholders involved. Many ‘signatures’ are not really necessary in this context. The Recommendation also reviews the electronic equivalents to an ink signature and provides guidance on how to choose these. This authentication is often a point of human contact between stakeholders which could be eliminated or replaced by other means.
  • UN/CEFACT guidance to support MSMEs
    Integrated Services for MSMEs in International Trade (ISMIT) and development of eService platforms facilitates trade for MSMEs by addressing obstacles in an effective manner and allows them to reach export markets. This paper establishes measures which can be taken in order to help MSMEs access international market and improve their economic standing. MSMEs are particularly affected by disrupted supply chains during COVID-19, economic downturn and the resulting economic crisis.
  • UN/CEFACT Response to Pandemic Crisis (under development)
    This paper will develop clear guidance on measures and best practices in order to maintain trade flows in the event of a pandemic such as COVID-19.  It will build upon the work of the UN/CEFACT Cross Border Facilitation Measures for Disaster Relief project.

Standards

  • Reducing human contact with electronic data exchange
    Reducing human contact is one of the key elements in stopping the propagation of the COVID-19 and similar viruses. Many paper-based transactions can be performed electronically, eliminating such contact. However, for this, clear semantic standards are necessary in order to ensure that all parties understand the same information in the same way. To this end, UN/CEFACT has developed the UN/EDIFACT standard; a dictionary of trade terms called the United Nations Trade Data Element Dictionnary (UNTDED); a library of trade terms in their business context called the Core Component Library; subsets of this library aimed at specific sectors of activity called Reference Data Models; explanatory documents linked to each electronic standard in order to explain and harmonize how these are implemented called Business Requirement Specifications; as well as XML schema to provide sample messages standards. Together or individually, these standards help to promote interoperability between electronic solutions and contribute to reducing or eliminating human contact.
  • UN/CEFACT standards on traceability and transparency
    These tools support transparency and traceability of the value chain, such as traceability in agri-food supply chains and wildlife (eCITES), Electronic licenses, permits and certificates (LPC) for agriculture trade (eCERT standards), Rapid Alert Systems for Feed and Food (RASFF), Electronic Animal Passport. During COVID-19, these tools assist in implementing risk management, detecting fraud and preventing health risks (e.g. zoonosis).
  • UN/CEFACT standard on Smart Container
    Smart Containers have an Internet-of-Things device affixed or integrated to them which allow to communicate information about the conditions and location of the goods to the stakeholders in the supply chain. This information can include operational performance, security, compliance, green maintenance, visibility and other. This standard provides guidance on their implementation and establishes a standard electronic message for the exchange of related data. The use of Smart Containers during COVID-19 or related pandemics can help streamline clearance, freight handling, insurance handling, financial processes among other, while reducing the need for human intervention.
  • UN/CEFACT eCMR standard
    This tool standardizes and harmonizes messages related to electronic road consignment note (e-CMR) to be exchanged between the actors of a supply chain. In COVID-19 period, it allows clear and efficient communication between all stakeholders of the supply chain.
  • Cross Border Facilitation Measures for Disaster Relief (currently being finalized)
    This Recommendation establishes clear guidance on immediate response and readiness for emergency relief imports. Though this recommendation is concentrating on response to natural disasters, many of the key points can be adapted to pandemics such as COVID-19.
  • UN/CEFACT Data Pipeline Standards
    Ensuring data quality is one of the main challenges along the supply chain. Information is often re-keyed, reinterpreted or simplified when passed from one stakeholder to the next, making regulatory processes and commercial planning difficult. The Data Pipeline principle provides a standard and a framework to recuperate data from the source upstream and sharing it with the pertinent stakeholders. It provides for a full automation of data exchange from the original consignor to the final consignee, eliminating the need for human contact on the entire commercial, logistics and regulatory chain of information.
  • UN/CEFACT e-business standards for agriculture
    The Handbook (ECE/TRADE/428) supports project managers and policy makers in developing and transition economies to design, plan and implement projects for improvement of competitiveness of their agriculture trade using latest eBusiness and trade facilitation approaches. The Handbook has been written by the UNECE and UN/ESCAP toghether with the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), a global standardisation body for the exchange of electronic business information comprising international experts in agriculture trade with specific experts in implementing these eBusiness standards in a poly driven environment.
  • UN/EDIFACT Health Insurance Standards
    The standards facilitate exchange between medical providers on medical prescriptions, services, requests and care claims.

Capacity Building Projects

  • UN Development Account - Evidence-based trade facilitation measures for economies in transition
    The project aims at enhancing countries’ exports and cross-border trade in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Georgia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Special attention is paid to help countries recover from COVID-19 trade disruptions using the UNECE trade facilitation policy recommendations, standards and tools and to develop an evidence-based policy coherence to support implementation of provisions of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.
  • Strengthening the capacity of the Kyrgyzstan National Trade Facilitation Council to implement the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement
    The project strengthens the capacity of the National Trade Facilitation Committee to implement trade facilitation reforms and to develop a trade information portal with the focus on emergencies and overcoming trade disruptions caused by COVID-19.
  • Strengthening the capacity of Central Asian countries to implement trade facilitation measures and better integrate into the international rules-based trading system
    This project strengthens national capacities of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to implement trade facilitation measures and better integrate into the international rules-based trading system. This includes capacity building of policymakers and experts in NTFCs, regulatory agencies and other relevant stakeholders, to develop and implement trade facilitation policies and measures. This can in turn contribute to the efficient and fast recovery from COVID-19 trade disruptions. This work can be considered by other economies addressing similar situations.
  • Enhancing Traceability and Transparency for Sustainable Value Chains in Garment and Footwear
    Improving transparency and traceability is a priority for the garment and footwear industry to increase its ability to manage the value chains more effectively, identify and address labour and human rights violations and environmental impacts and handle reputational risks, while embracing more sustainable production and consumption patterns. The COVID-19 pandemic raises awareness on the necessity to make global value chains more responsible, sustainable and transparent, to promote global trade, and achieve labour welfare worldwide. The project deliverables are key tools to address the challenges and impacts in terms of supply chain disruptions and job loss that the industry is facing due the global sanitary crisis.

Press Releases and News

For more information and assistance

Please contact:

Ms. Maria Ceccarelli
Chief, Trade Facilitation Section
Economic Cooperation and Trade Division
Telephone: +41 22 917 2455