UNECE helps Kyrgyzstan “build back better” from Covid-19 through trade facilitation reforms

The COVID-19 pandemic stopped trade routes, disrupted supply chains, and impacted international trade globally. Kyrgyzstan is no exception. According to its Ministry of Economy, Kyrgyzstan’s international trade decreased by more than 22% in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. But traders are keen to get back to normal trading operations. The government is also looking at ways to facilitate trade in a safe and sustainable manner. In this context, UNECE is supporting the country to develop a National Trade Facilitation Roadmap for Sustainable Economic Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. In cooperation with the Ministry of Economy, UNECE organized an Expert Consultation Workshop for National Trade Facilitation Roadmap on 27 October 2020 in a hybrid mode with some experts physically meeting in Bishkek and others joining virtually from Geneva.

During the pandemic, Kyrgyzstan introduced a few specific measures as well as used existing measures to support traders. For example, it introduced green corridors to allow trade of essential goods. It provided a range of concessions to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) including deferral of tax payments and value added tax exemptions. The Single Window Information System ‘Tulpar’ was operational and allowed traders to submit applications and accompanying documents in electronic format for export, import, and transit operations. According to the country’s Single Window Agency, the number of permits issued in ‘Tulpar’ increased by 17% between the first three quarters of 2019 and 2020, indicating the usefulness of digitally-enabled services during times of crisis.

Experts in the workshop discussed the impact of COVID-19 on trade facilitation as well as vision, goals and priority activities for the roadmap.  This expert consultation brought together over thirty experts from the Ministry of Economy, Customs, the Ministry of Transport, independent experts, members of the National Trade Facilitation Council, Kyrgyz Economic University, the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office (RCO), United Nations Industrial Development Organizations (UNIDO), the Permanent Mission of Kyrgyzstan to the United Nations Office in Geneva and other international organizations in Geneva and private sector representatives. This consultation was an essential step towards the development of the National Trade Facilitation Roadmap for Kyrgyzstan as it provided an opportunity for trade-related stakeholders to share their priorities and needs. The consultation will be followed-up by drafting the Roadmap in consultation with the National Trade Facilitation Council of Kyrgyzstan.

The Roadmap is one of the deliverables of the UNECE project on “Strengthening the capacity of the Kyrgyzstan National Trade Facilitation Council to implement the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement”, which aims to help the country “build back better” from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and enhance trade facilitation.

This project will also contribute to the development of a Trade Information Portal.  In addition, Business Process Analysis studies for export of textile products and import of pharmaceutical products will be conducted to identify bottlenecks and propose recommendations to decrease the time and costs for export and import for traders. Under the project, UNECE is cooperating with the Kyrgyz Economic University, aiming to build on local expertise and empower the public and private sectors to devise and implement appropriate trade facilitation policies and international standards for electronic data exchange.

This National Trade Facilitation Roadmap is part of UNECE’s broader efforts to support countries in their post-COVID recovery, as detailed in the UNECE Action Framework.