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UN/CEFACT Hangzhou Forum shows that eCommerce can learn from eBusiness and support Micro, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises

With the advent of eCommerce or on-line trading platforms, a focus of recent discussions on its development has been the concern for the need for new data exchange standards for eCommerce and how micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) could access international markets. 

To be able to clarify what are the real needs for the efficient and effective performance of on-line trading platforms, and how best to support MSMEs, the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) organized a focused e-Commerce conference in cooperation with the Chinese National Institute of Standardization (CNIS) during the Hangzhou Forum.

Perspectives shared by the experts gathered in Hangzhou showed the innovations and benefits that eCommerce platforms can bring, especially with an interesting case from China on using e-Commerce for poverty alleviation in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 and the potential of e-Commerce to support MSMEs in developing countries and countries with economies in transition. China has a goal to lift 30.46 million people out of poverty by 2020 through targeted poverty alleviation measures. One project aims to promote e-Commerce in rural areas with government assistance.

UN/CEFACT’s Integrated Services for MSMEs in International Trade (ISMIT) project, which was developed after Ali Baba voiced a need for such a tool, is an integrated, end-to-end eCommerce trade services platform for MSMEs that want to trade across borders. This will be help small and medium sized enterprises to access larger markets and engage in cross-border e-Commerce, which could, for example, support China in its efforts to reduce poverty through e-Commerce.

On the need for new standards for e-Commerce, the experts highlighted the increase in volume of logistics flows for e-Commerce and the complications this can cause, as well as clear explanations of the financial benefits and risks of these direct, on-line transactions. However, the Chair of UN/CEFACT, Ms. Sue Probert, stressed that “eCommerce should aim to reuse already existing, robust standards in the field and avoid painful and expensive lessons that result from developing new and incompatible standards”.

UN/CEFACT already has pertinent e-Business data exchange standards that are adaptable to eCommerce and available as an open resource and free of charge. UN/CEFACT experts will work on the adaptation and further development of its well-established standards to accommodate the needs of eCommerce platforms. New standards are not necessary in the data exchange, but rather new information and new business processes should be integrated into its existing deliverables to accommodate this quickly growing market.

UN/CEFACT will also be considering a few other topics that were brought to the conference, notably on quality certification procedures and standards. Though these are requested in the framework of eCommerce, their application can potentially go well beyond on-line trading platforms.

From the Chinese capital of eCommerce, Hangzhou, UN/CEFACT was able to bring together nearly two hundred experts and debate on topics such as this, as well as Blockchain, Internet of Things and Single Window in a successful Forum. More to come on these topics soon on www.unece.org/cefact