• English

UNECE addresses issues at the cross section of E-Commerce and Trade Facilitation at E-Commerce Week in Geneva

Growing E-Commerce is a driver of innovation and competitiveness. Increasingly, business enterprises, and SMEs in particular, are connected through e-trade with consumers and businesses. Between 2013 and 2015, the value of global online trade jumped from 16 trillion to 22 trillion dollars.

However, while there is sufficient capacity in shipping and air transport channels to deal with the projected increase in shipments due to e-trade, this trend poses a number of challenges for customs and border regulatory agencies in terms of expectations for timely release of shipments, adequate volumes of turnover and effective regulatory responses.

At the E-Commerce week, held in Geneva last week and attended by almost 1.000 participants from all over the world, UNECE along with development partners UNCTAD, ITC and WCO, co-organized two sessions, where panelists from governments,  international organizations and the private sector addressed challenges and opportunities for E-Commerce and trade facilitation. “There is a strong linkage between trade facilitation measures and E-Commerce, with several potential areas of benefit”, said Maria Ceccarelli, Head of the UNECE Trade Facilitation Section. 

In terms of policy formulation and implementation, the need to align design and delivery of trade facilitation initiatives coherently was emphasised. The multi-stakeholder E-Trade for All initiative launched at the Conference, with UNECE contribution, is a case in point. The importance of embracing technology and private sector involvement in policy formulation was also mentioned as important. In this regard, UN/CEFACT e-business standards are practical tools helping business to speak the same language.

There was a clear understanding that E-Commerce will continue to grow rapidly in the future, irrespective of any new trading rules. The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) acts as an enabler as it includes many provisions aiming at modernizing customs procedures. However there is a need to go beyond mere legal compliance of the WTO TFA with the ‘whole of supply chain approach’ looking at all aspects of the international trade transaction process.

It is important that policy makers recognize opportunities created by E-Commerce and create conditions (e.g. alignment of standards), procedures and resources, which allow E-Commerce to strive, keeping SMEs at the heart of their interventions. In this respect the contribution of UN/CEFACT, which brings together more than 300 experts on the full range of issues concerning trade facilitation and electronic business, is significant. And its recommendations and standards are key enablers for the trade facilitation and E-Commerce interface.

During the Conference, UNECE co-organized with the African Alliance for E-Commerce a side event on “Single Window as an Enabler for E-Commerce Development”, which featured the launch of the African Alliance for E-Commerce Single Window Implementation Guide 2017. This Guide, based on UNECE Recommendations 33 to 36, sets out the practical steps involved in the planning and roll out of Single Window projects. “Trade has become a real development tool and the implementation of high value added  solutions through the mastery of information and communication technologies, backed up by efficient technology transfer, is now one of the pillars of development”, Abdoullahi Faouzi, Vice-chair of the Technical Committee of the African Alliance for E-Commerce, said. The need to capture e-Commerce opportunities and information throughout the entire supply chains was highlighted, as in such a way countries could turn Single Windows in a window of opportunities for sustainable and inclusive economic growth.