UNUnited Nations Economic Commission for Europe

United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business




The United Nations, through its Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), supports activities dedicated to improving the ability of business, trade and administrative organizations, from developed, developing and transitional economies, to exchange products and relevant services effectively. Its principal focus is on facilitating national and international transactions, through the simplification and harmonisation of processes, procedures and information flows, and so contribute to the growth of global commerce. This is achieved by:

  • Analysing and understanding the key elements of international processes, procedures and transactions and working for the elimination of constraints;

  • Developing methods to facilitate processes, procedures and transactions, including the relevant use of information technologies;

  • Promoting both the use of these methods, and associated best practices, through channels such as government, industry and service associations;

  • Coordinating its work with other international organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Customs Organization (WCO), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), notably in the context of a Memorandum of Understanding for a Global Facilitation Partnership for Transport and Trade;

  • Securing coherence in the development of Standards and Recommendations by co-operating with other interested parties, including international, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. In particular, for UN/CEFACT Standards, this coherence is accomplished by cooperating with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and selected non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the context of the ISO/IEC/ITU/UNECE Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). These relationships were established in recognition that UN/CEFACT's work has broad application in the areas beyond global commerce and that interoperability of applications and their ability to support multi-lingual environments, are key objectives.




The original text of TRADE/R.650 was approved by WP.4, the predecessor to the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business' (UN/CEFACT), at its final meeting in September 1996 and was later approved by the Committee on the Development of Trade in December 1996. Subsequently, organizational changes, a change in organization name and experience gained from operating the Centre resulted in revisions to the original document, the last being Revision 3 which was approved by the UN/CEFACT Plenary in May 2004.


During the intervening period, UN/CEFACT has experienced a significant process of transformation involving:

  • Adoption of a vision and operating strategy
  • Approval of the Open Development Process (ODP) as the means for progressing work
  • An organizational restructuring of its Permanent Groups (PGs) to operate within the ODP
  • Confirmation of a need to augment available support resources beyond those available from the UNECE
  • Development of an intellectual property rights policy
  • Approval of a united UN/CEFAT management structure and operating processes

This document, Revision 4 of R.650, has been developed by the Bureau, after consultation with the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs (OLA), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Heads of Delegation (HODs), and it incorporates those changes arising out of the foregoing experience, consultation and implementation of the Tenth UN/CEFACT Plenary decisions


The web site provides:

  • Trade Facilitation Recommendations
  • Electronic Business Standards
  • Technical Specifications

for the three pillars - processes, information and technology - that are vital in the development of world trade.  


UN/CEFACT, a United Nations body, has a global remit. It encourages close collaboration between governments and private business to secure the interoperability for the exchange of information between the public and private sector. It has developed:

  • The UN Layout Key for Trade Documents, which is the foundation for the EU's Single Administrative Document (SAD)
  • UN/EDIFACT, the international standard for electronic data interchange
  • numerous trade facilitation recommendations

It is now drawing up the next generation of trade facilitation and e-business standards and tools.