18 April 1996

Original: ENGLISH

Working Party on Facilitation of
International Trade Procedures
Meeting of Experts on Procedures and
Documentation (GE.2)
(Fifty-third session, 20 March 1996)


  1. The Meeting of Experts (GE.2) held its fifty-third session in Geneva on 20 March 1996 under the chairmanship of Mr. E. Goffin (Belgium).

  2. The session was attended by representatives from: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Republic of San Marino, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America.

  3. The session was attended by representatives of the European Union (EU).

  4. Representatives from: Australia, Brazil, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Korea, Nigeria and Senegal participated under Article 11 of the Commission's terms of reference.

  5. The session was also attended by representatives of the secretariat of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), as well as by representatives of the following intergovernmental organizations:

    the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the Central Office for International Railway Transport (OCTI) and the World Customs Organization (WCO). The following non-governmental organizations were represented: Comité International des Transports Ferroviaires (CIT), International Air Transport Association (IATA), European Electronic Messaging Association (EEMA), International Air Transport Association (IATA), International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Transfers (S.W.I.F.T), International Union of Railways (UIC). Also present at the invitation of the secretariat was a representative of the United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation and the International Federation of Inspection Agencies (IFIA).

    Item 1 - Adoption of the agenda

  6. Provisional agenda (TRADE/WP.4/GE.2/102/Rev.1) was adopted with the understanding that item 7 "Legal/commercial aspects of trade facilitation" had been deferred to a joint session of GE.1/GE.2. The Report of the joint session of GE.1/GE.2 on 21 March 1996 is appended to the Reports of the fifty-third sessions of GE.1 and GE.2.

    Item 2 - Election of Officers

  7. Mr. E. Goffin (Belgium) was re-elected as Chairman and Mrs. C. Wallen-Rahlen (Sweden) and Mr. A. Filippov (Russian Federation) as Vice-Chairmen of the Meeting of Experts for 1996 and the March 1997 session of GE.2.

    Item 3 - Programme of work and priorities


    • Report of Twenty-Eighth WP.4 Session (TRADE/WP.4/165)
    • Working Party on Facilitation of International Trade Procedures:
    • Role and Future Policy (TRADE/WP.4/R.1000 and TRADE/WP.4/R.1000/Corr.1)
    • Interim Report from the Ad Hoc Groups A and B on Centre Implementation and Centre Work Programme (TRADE/WP.4/CRP.41)
    • Interim Report from the Ad Hoc Group C on Empowerment (TRADE/WP.4/CRP.43)
    • Programme of Work (TRADE/WP.4/CRP.75)

  8. In his introduction, the Chairman indicated that documents TRADE/WP.4/CRP.41 (Interim Report from the Ad Hoc Groups A and B on Centre Implementation and Centre Work Programme), TRADE/WP.4/CRP.75 (Programme of Work), and TRADE/WP.4/CRP.43 (Interim Report from the Ad Hoc Group C on Empowerment), had already been presented to the informal meeting of the Heads of delegation held on Monday 18 March 1996.

  9. He also mentioned other documents under this agenda item, including document TRADE/WP.4/R.800 (Draft Programme of Work) considered at the thirty-fifth session of the Working Party in March 1992. He underlined that all this documentation was a valuable contribution towards a coordinated transfer of the WP.4 activities to the proposed Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (CEFACT). Within two main strategic areas - Facilitation of Procedures and Practices and Electronic Data Interchange, including UN/EDIFACT - the Centre will need to take into consideration the needs of countries in transition as well as the legal issues affecting the implementation of procedures, practices and EDI.

  10. The Chairman explained that further discussion on this matter would take place during the informal meeting of Heads of delegation on 21 March 1996 and the session of the Working Party on Friday 22 March 1996. He invited delegations to comment on the work programme issues in this documentation.

  11. The Vice-Chair, Mrs. C. Wallen-Rahlen (Sweden), noted the privilege of being able to work globally within the UN system with trade facilitation matters, but said that doing so also means a responsibility to produce speedy and forward looking results which can guide governments and the business community. She would further see a limited work programme, revised yearly, with priorities and limited time frames. She hoped that this would attract country experts to participate in the work.

  12. The representative of the secretariat assured delegations that they would have full support from the secretariat in execution of the approved programme of work.

  13. In his intervention, the representative of the delegation of Switzerland said that he would prepare an electronic (computerized) version of the UN Layout Key and present to the next session.

  14. The representative of the delegation of the United Kingdom expressed his general support for document TRADE/WP.4/CRP.75 having noted the importance of programme element "Audit based control". As to programme element 1.3.4 "Revision of Recommendation No.18 (on measures to facilitate international trade)", he proposed to consider this revision in conjunction with the results of International Trade Transaction (ITT) Modelling, taking into account the fact that both the Recommendation and the ITT Modelling cover the ITT as a whole.

  15. The representative of the delegation of France noted programme elements 1.1.4 "Study on pre-shipment inspection procedure", "Transport of dangerous goods" and 1.5.1 "Negotiable documents" and proposed to set up ad hoc working groups on these subjects. He added that these activities might be considered as priorities in the work of the new Centre.

  16. Many other delegations participated in the discussion of the future programme of work of the Centre. Support was expressed to have document TRADE/WP.4/CRP.75 as a basis for the future programme of work. Additional remarks were given on the publication and promotion of the results of work. Need for more detailed implementation guides was noted.

  17. The Chairman summarized the discussion on this item having noted the importance of establishing priorities in the work programme. He indicated that, for the preparation of the final draft programme of work, delegations should send their comments on document TRADE/WP.4/CRP.75 to the secretariat by the third of May 1996.

    Item 4 - Analysis of the International Trade Transaction (ITT)


    Report of the Steering Group on International Trade Transaction (ITT) Modelling (TRADE/WP.4/CRP.74)
    Concordance Between Commercial Documents and UN/EDIFACT Messages (TRADE/WP.4/CRP.84)
    Documents Aligned in Accordance with WP.4 Recommendations (TRADE/WP.4/CRP.85)
    Purchase Order Layout (TRADE/WP.4/CRP.86)
    Single Administrative Document for Customs Declaration (TRADE/WP.4/CRP.87)

  18. In his introduction of document TRADE/WP.4/CRP.74, the Convenor of the ITT Steering group reported on the main actions undertaken by the group following the decisions of the September 1995 session of GE.2. At its meeting held on 30 November-1 December 1995, the Steering group had reviewed information on the development of electronic ITT models coming out of various meetings held since the 52nd session of GE.2 in September 1995. This included a recommendation to ESCAP member-countries to initiate work on an international trade transaction modelling exercise in collaboration with UN/ECE and other relevant organizations. He informed the Meeting of the successful ITT Modelling demonstration made on 6 December 1995 for the regular session of the ECE/Committee on the Development of Trade. The use of the World Wide Web Network for further promotion of this method was emphasized. The Convenor noted that to enable the work on the ITT Modelling to continue, the Steering group was seeking comments from delegations on the model, particularly with regard to their national situations, so that these could be analyzed appropriately and added to the model.

  19. He also drew the attention of delegations to the Annex of document TRADE/WP.4/CRP.74, containing the description of functions of the parties involved in international trade based on the United Kingdom experience. He invited delegations to comment on that subject. The intention of the Steering group is to introduce these descriptions into the ITT Model by the next session of GE.2.

  20. In continuation of his Report, the Convenor of the Steering group introduced other results produced in conjunction with the ITT Modelling: document TRADE/WP.4/CRP.84 (Concordance between Commercial Documents and UN/EDIFACT Messages), TRADE/WP.4/CRP.85 (Documents Aligned in Accordance with WP.4 Recommendations), TRADE/WP.4/CRP.86 (Purchase Order Layout), TRADE/WP.4/CRP.87 (Single Administrative Document for Customs Declaration). He underlined the need for further development of aligned international trade document systems, especially for countries in transition, as a preliminary step, in many cases, for the introduction of EDI.

  21. Several delegations participated in the discussion and favourably commented on the results achieved by the ITT Steering group and the importance of this GE.2 activity.

  22. The representative of the World Customs Organisation reported on the experience of his organisation in this area and expressed hope for closer cooperation.

  23. The Chairman underlined the need for cooperation between UN Regional Commissions on the subject. In view of a presentation on ITT Modelling to be given at the fourth Meeting of the ESCAP Network on Trade Facilitation in New Delhi, India, in October/November 1996, he asked the secretariat to submit a WP.4 Report on this activity.

  24. The Meeting recommended that the Steering group continue its activities on the issues indicated in the report in close cooperation with GE.1 experts and report again in September 1996. It was proposed to invite more experts to be members of the Steering group. The next meeting of the Steering group will take place on 19-20 June 1996. The Meeting thanked the ECE Regional Adviser on Trade Facilitation, Mr. W. Keenan, and the Standards Liaison Rapporteur, Mr. K.-D. Naujok (Canada) for the excellent demonstration they did on the use of the World Wide Web and modern modelling techniques and hoped that they would continue to cooperate in the elaboration of the ITT Models.

    Item 5 - Implementation of ECE/FAL Recommendations

  25. In accordance with the decision taken by WP.4 at its September 1995 Session, the secretariat informed the Meeting that it had sent for publication all the Recommendations approved by the Working Party (document ECE/TRADE/200). The content of this publication was distributed to delegations as document TRADE/WP.4/CRP.71.

    (a) Recommendation No. 4 "National Trade Facilitation Organizations"

    Document: - List of National Trade Facilitation Committees and Focal Points (TRADE/WP.4/R.898/Rev.6)

  26. The Meeting noted document TRADE/WP.4/R.898/Rev.6, the list of existing committees and focal points, prepared by the secretariat. The attention was drown to new information regarding World Wide Web pages included in the document.

  27. The Chairman asked the secretariat to continue maintenance of the list and to submit an updated version to the next session of GE.2.

    (b) Recommendation No.10 "Ships' codes" Document: - Revision of WP.4/Recommendation No.10 "Code for ship's names" (TRADE/WP.4/R.1201)

  28. The representative of ICS introduced document TRADE/WP.4/R.1201, containing proposals for the revision of this Recommendation. He explained that this paper set out the results of ICS research into the shipping industry's needs and preferences in respect of standard codes for identifying ships. He declared that ICS would like to endorse the proposal from the delegation of Finland (document TRADE/WP.4/R.1175) that WP.4 consider recommending the IMO number to replace the Radio Call Sign as a code for identifying ships, in Recommendation No.10.

  29. At the proposal of its Chairman, the meeting agreed to ask ICS to prepare a draft revision of this Recommendation to be submitted to the secretariat in mid-June 1996 and to be officially published for a formal approval at the next session of GE.2 in September 1996.

    (b) Recommendation No.12 "Measures to facilitate transport documents procedures"

    Document: - Implementation of ECE/FAL Recommendation No.12 (TRADE/WP.4/R.1218)

  30. The representative of ICS introduced document TRADE/WP.4/R.1218, containing the results of ICS research to the extent which non-negotiable documents had replaced negotiable Bills of Lading in various liner trades. The results showed that negotiable Bills of Lading had virtually passed out of use in certain trades, but continued to predominate in many other trades. He indicated the specific factors contributing to the continued use of negotiable Bills of Lading and mentioned that they might be further investigated to increase the use of non-negotiable documents. The cooperation with banks was welcomed.

  31. Several delegations favourably commented this ICS study. The representative of the Delegation of France noted the need to continue efforts to implement this Recommendation and to seek assistance from UNCITRAL in this respect. Taking into account the developments of the BOLERO project, this activity might be interesting for a joint activity together with GE.1 experts. The delegation of France was ready to submit a document on the subject to the next session of GE.2.

    (c) Recommendation No. 17 "PAYTERMS - Abbreviations for Terms of Payment"

    Document: - Codification of Terms of Payment and Updating Recommendation No.17 (TRADE/WP.4/CRP.73)

  32. A representative of the secretariat introduced document TRADE/WP.4/CRP.73 on the codification of Terms of Payment and the updating of Recommendation No.17. The secretariat suggested that efforts should be continued in the direction of revising the list of terms of payment approved in Recommendation No.17 and to carry out a study on existing practical experience and the possibility of using the recommended numeric codification (document TRADE/WP.4/R.454) in the framework of the UNSM "Standard Invoice Message".

  33. The Meeting agreed to set up an ad hoc group on the subject with participation of delegations of Romania, Austria, France, Belgium and the secretariat in this activity. The participation of appropriate international organisations was welcomed.

    (d) Recommendation No.18 "Facilitation measures related to international trade procedures"

    Documents: - International Federation of Inspection Agencies (IFIA) Report on Preshipment Inspection Programmes (TRADE/WP.4/CRP.47)
    - Preshipment inspection (TRADE/WP.4/CRP.68)

  34. The representative of IFIA introduced document TRADE/WP.4/CRP.47 (Report of IFIA on the PSI Procedure), prepared in accordance with the decision of the September 1995 session of GE.2. He underlined the importance of Article 4 of the WTO PSI Agreement in respect of an Independent Entity established at the WTO Secretariat to resolve disputes from either exporters or PSI companies concerning compliance with the provisions of the PSI Agreement. In the light of the WTO PSI Agreement, he suggested that Recommendation No.18 be revised.

  35. Several delegations participated in the discussion. The representative of WCO explained the position of his organisation with regard to PSI procedures. The need to strengthen and modernize the Customs service in some countries was noted. The representative of the delegation of the United Kingdom proposed to consider the study on PSI procedure separately from the problem of revising Recommendation No.18.

  36. The delegation of Sweden stressed that the PSI matter can be seen divided in at least three parts, one relating to user countries, and two others relating to the Customs service and the relations between the exporters and the inspection companies. The Meeting should take into account the WTO Agreement on PSI before starting a revision of the measure on PSI procedure. The delegations were encouraged to forward comments to the secretariat on the revision of this procedure. In this respect, a questionnaire on PSI procedure (document TRADE/WP.4/CRP.68), prepared by the secretariat, might be helpful in receiving contributions from other delegations.

    Item 6 - Revision of the Kyoto Convention

    Document: - Revision of the Kyoto Convention (TRADE/WP.4/CRP.67)

  37. The representative of the secretariat introduced document TRADE/WP.4/CRP.67 (Revision of the Kyoto Convention). He informed the session that the text of the Convention was placed on the World Wide Web Network and available for comments. As to the participation of WP.4 in this revision, he mentioned Annex J.1 on computerization of the Customs service.

  38. To define the role of WP.4 in this process, the Meeting agreed to set up an ad hoc group with the participation of the delegations of Switzerland, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the WCO and the secretariat. The Chairman asked the delegation of the Netherlands which holds the chairmanship in the WCO Working Party on the revision of the Kyoto Convention to prepare a Note on the subject to be discussed between the members of the ad hoc group by the middle of June 1996.

    Item 7 - Trade documents names and functions

  39. At the request of the Chairman, who explained that this subject was covered with the discussion on agenda item 4 "Analysis of the International Trade Transaction (ITT)", it was agreed to revert to this item at the next session.

    Item 8 - Aligned forms and the Trade Data Elements Directory (UNTDED)

    Document: - Cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (TRADE/WP.4/CRP.72)

  40. A representative of the secretariat introduced document TRADE/WP.4/CRP.72, Report on cooperation with UNEP on alignment of their documentation, and explained that UNEP had been made aware of the fact that their documentation was not aligned with the UN Layout Key.

  41. Taking into account that this agenda item was considerably covered with the discussion on agenda item 4 "Analysis of the International Trade Transaction (ITT)", the Meeting agreed to revert to this item at the next session.

    Item 9 - Legal and commercial aspects of trade facilitation


    Working paper prepared for the UNCITRAL Working Group on Electronic Data Interchange - Thirtieth Session
    An EDI solution for the negotiation and management of the interchange agreement (TEDIC Project)
    Report of the WP.4 Legal Rapporteurs to the March 1996 Session of WP.4
    Report on the ICC initiative to replace the paper based letter of credit with an electronic alternative.
    Recommendation No. 26

  42. This item was considered at the joint session of GE.1 and GE.2 on legal matters on 21 March 1996. The Report of this joint session is reproduced in the Annex to this Report.

    Item 10 - Other business

  43. The representative of the secretariat informed the session of the publication of documents ECE/TRADE/201, ECE/TRADE/202, ECE/TRADE/203, ECE/TRADE/204, ECE/TRADE/205, ECE/TRADE/206, ECE/TRADE/207 and ECE/TRADE/208 which contain respectively the revised Recommendations No.3, 5, 9, 11, 16 and new Recommendations No.24, 25 and 26 approved at the September 1995 session of WP.4.

  44. The WP.4 Consultant on updating Recommendation No.16 introduced document TRADE/WP.4/CRP.83 on the preparation of the updated version of the UN/LOCODE which contains now 22663 entries. He informed that, at present, the UN/LOCODE for the USA contains 11723 entries, and the Universal Postal Union had adopted the UN/LOCODE as a basis for location codes for postal exchange purposes. He also mentioned the problem of introducing diacritic marks which needed to be resolved. Comments of delegations on this problem were welcomed.

  45. The secretariat informed delegations of the following WP.4 meeting dates and deadlines for document submission:
    Meeting dates                                       Deadlines
    Week beginning               Translation     Issuance as "R" Document
    Monday, 16 September 1996          15 June 1996                1 August 1996
    Monday, 17 March 1997              16 December 1996           30 January 1997

  46. Contact information for submission of comments, as requested in the above Report:
     For Programme of Work and Priorities:
     Mr. Emile GOFFIN, Chairman of GE.2 
     Directeur general adjoint
     Office belge du commerce exterieur
     162, Bd. Emile Jacqmain, Bte 36
     B-1000 BRUXELLES
     Fax: +32 2 217 61 23
     E-mail: info@obcebdbh.be
     For analysis of the International Trade Transaction (ITT):
     Mr. D.Dima, Vice-Chairman of WP.4
     Vice Président ROMPRO
     Directeur General
     Centre de Calcul SICOMEX
     Ministère du Commerce
     16, Blvd. Republcii
     Fax: +401 311 1491
     E-mail: ddima@u1.ici.ro
     For revision of the Kyoto Convention:
     Mr. Ari Van Bellen
     Secretary General SITPRONETH
     Senior Advisor EDIFORUM
     P.O. Box 262
     Fax: +31 70 327 6965
     E-mail: ediforum@worldaccess.n
     For UN/LOCODE - Code for Ports and Other Locations, and Revision 
     of the Recommendation on PSI Procedures:
     Mr. Ernst SMIRNOV
     Trade Facilitation Section
     Un/ECE Trade Division
     Palais des Nations, Office 440
     1211 Geneva 10
     Fax: +41 22 917 00 37
     E-mail: ernst.smirnov.ece@unog.ch
     Copies of contributions should also be sent to the secretariat of WP.4.

    Item 12 - Adoption of the Report of the fifty-third session

  47. The report of the GE.2 was adopted on 22 March 1996 on the basis of a draft prepared by the secretariat.

Annex A



Working paper prepared for the UNCITRAL Working Group on Electronic Data Interchange - Thirtieth Session
An EDI solution for the negotiation and management of the interchange agreement (TEDIC Project)
Report of the WP.4 Legal Rapporteurs to the March 1996 Session of WP.4
Report on the ICC initiative to replace the paper based letter of credit with an electronic alternative.
Recommendation No. 26

  1. The Joint session was chaired by Mr. T. Blomfeldt.

  2. The Legal Rapporteur, Ms. Troye, reported on the activities related to the legal programme of work adopted by the UN/ECE WP.4. The first item of the report was the publication of the Recommendation No. 26 (electronic data interchange) on the commercial use of interchange agreements for Electronic Data Interchange already adopted at a previous session. This Recommendation completes the project 4.1 of the legal programme of work.

  3. The Delegates were informed about the first meeting of the JRT Joint Ad Hoc Group on Negotiability in Oxford. The group included representatives of the Legal Rapporteur's Team and the Transport, Finance and Security message development groups. The objective of the group is to consider the requirements for developing electronic alternatives to the use of paper-based negotiable documents. The group considered the need for negotiable and non-negotiable documents in international trade in view of the different extent these are used in various geographical regions in the world.

  4. A move from paper to electronic environment would have to:
    • take into account different level of EDI capabilities in various regions;
    • consider the extent to which national and international legal framework regard EDI;
    • assess the compatibility of paper and electronic systems;
    • evaluate solutions proposed by projects such as Mandate, EDIBoL, Bolero and the replacement of paper letter of credit with an electronic alternative (CRP. 78);
    • liaise with other international organizations, in particular the ICC and UNCITRAL, working in this area from a different point of view.

  5. With regard to WP.4 participation in the Electronic Credits Working Party meetings due to take place before the next session, it was agreed that the UN/ECE secretariat would discuss with the delegations of France and United Kingdom their potential attendance.

  6. The representative of UNCITRAL gave a report on work in progress in that organization. The attention of the Joint Groups of Experts was drawn to the contents of the working paper prepared for the thirtieth session of the UNCITRAL Working Group on Electronic Data Interchange (A/CN.9/WG.IV/WP.69) and to the report of that session (A/CN.9/421). Those two documents contained draft legislative provisions designed to facilitate the establishment of functional equivalents to negotiable bills of lading and other paper-based transport documents, for use in an electronic environment. It was noted that those draft provisions, together with the draft UNCITRAL Model Law on Legal Aspects of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Related Means of Communication, would be discussed at the twenty-ninth session of UNCITRAL, to be held in New York, from 28 May to 14 June 1996.

  7. The cooperation between WP.4 and UNCITRAL was discussed and the importance of that cooperation was further emphasized. In response to questions raised by delegations, the Legal Rapporteur clarified the different areas of competence. While UNCITRAL has competence for the elaboration of legal rules through international conventions and other texts of uniform law, WP.4 is contributing to the identification of legal problems faced by the EDI community, and to the development of practical solutions and recommendations to improve the legal framework. UNCITRAL agreed completely with this assessment.

  8. As a follow-up to document Trade/WP.4/R.1096, it was observed that a letter to international organizations needed to be sent by the Secretariat in order to seek information about actions being undertaken on the removal of barriers to the use of EDI.

  9. The Legal Rapporteur indicated that three new items of work were proposed for the LRT : data protection, self-invoicing and the use of certification authorities. The Chairman raised the issue of administrative demands for paper documents, linked with various formalities such as stamping, in many countries in transition. He required the Legal Rapporteurs to take this issue as a work item for the LRT. The Legal Rapporteur encouraged countries in transition to comment and communicate their main areas of concern in the area of trade facilitation perhaps through the use of the Questionnaire and the document TRADE/WP.4/R.1096. The Legal Rapporteur confirmed that further answers to the Questionnaire on the national legal and commercial practices would be taken into consideration in the analysis currently in progress.

  10. The Delegation of France presented the TEDIC project on EDI, which is summarized in document TRADE/WP.4/R.1219. After discussion, it was decided that this project would be submitted to the LRT for further examination and possible recommendations.

  11. Ms. Troye, was re-elected and Mr. Sorieul was elected as Legal Rapporteurs for the following three sessions. It was noted that Mr. Ritter was not seeking re-election as Legal Rapporteur.