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Second International Forum on Trade Facilitation : Sharing the Gains of Globalization in the New Security Environment

14 - 15 May 2003

United Nations Office at Geneva, Switzerland
Hall XX

in cooperation with:Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Economic Commission for Latin America
and the Caribbean, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia,Economic Commission for Africa,
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, World Bank,
European Commission, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, World Trade Organization,
World Customs Organization and International Chamber of Commerce

Programme of the Forum
Background documents
Programme of the Forum  [htm]  [pdf] Income Distribution Impact of Trade Facilitation in Developing Countries  [doc]  [pdf]
Opening session - Presentations [zip]

Session 1: How to achieve benefits for all from trade facilitation? - Presentations [zip]

Session 2: Trade facilitation policy and new security initiatives - Presentations [zip]

Session 3: Mechanism of Cooperation: the role of the business community - Presentations [zip]

Session 4: Open Regionalism
Presentations [zip]

Closing session: Chairman's Conclusions
Presentations [zip]
Proposal for Standards Development in Support of Trade Facilitation and Security: A Collaborative Approach  [doc]  [pdf]
Workshop on 14 May 2003: IPR and trade facilitation: "Identifying Opportunities and Roadblocks" Concept Paper [pdf]
Technical Workshop on 15 May 2003: Leading Edge in trade facilitation (organized in cooperation with Resonance Communication)  
Seminar on 15 May 2003: The United Nations Electronic Trade Documents (UNeDocs): Digital Paper for Trade on Your Desktop  


Trade facilitation, i.e. the simplification, harmonization, automation and speeding up of the international flows of goods and trade information, has the potential of bolstering economic growth. In an increasingly globalized economy, it contributes directly to promoting supply chain linkages and reducing non-tariff barriers to trade. Above all, by saving precious resources, it has a strong potential for development. Nevertheless, the benefits of multilateral trade facilitation have not been evenly distributed. The United Nations, in its Millennium Development Goals has committed all Member States and the UN organizations to work towards alleviating poverty, promoting sustainable trade and development, and spreading the beneficial impact of globalization and multilateral cooperation on a more equitable basis. In order for all countries to reap the benefits of increased efficiency through optimal trade procedures, targeted policy and practical measures should be adopted.

The second International Forum on Trade Facilitation in May 2003 will focus on trade and transport facilitation and customs cooperation, within the perspective of the needs of development and the heightened security requirements . More specifically, the Forum will discuss the effect of the new security challenges on global supply chains. The conduct of international trade has undergone fundamental changes, as the security emphasis has shifted from threats to trade to threats from trade. While some major actors in international trade focus on the identification and minimization of risks to the security of international flows of goods (especially in container trade), others are concerned with the new security requirements, which will impose an additional burden on their fragile economies. There is a great risk that transition and developing countries will not be able to share the benefits of globalization, and that they will be marginalized. The implications of these challenges and changes on the weakest participants in the global trading system will be felt more strongly. The United Nations should address these problems by providing a neutral forum for their discussion. It should look into the development of new international instruments in the area.

The Forum will build upon the broader definition of trade facilitation at the first International Forum on Trade Facilitation in May 2002. Trade facilitation is a complex area, which involves government regulations and control, business efficiency, transportation, information and communication technology and the financial services. The work on trade facilitation involves various actors with different agendas, which makes agreement on a joint course of action difficult to achieve. Therefore, it is important that all stakeholders - governmental agencies, the business community, and international and non-governmental organizations - address trade facilitation strategically through adequate policies on the national, regional and international levels, emphasizing assistance for the development of weaker partners.

Inefficient trade procedures and a lack of trade facilitation have a greater negative effect on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and on enterprises in developing countries. The reason for this is that small-value consignments carry a disproportionately high cost burden due to the fixed costs that have to be paid per consignment. Addressing the problems of these “weaker” stakeholders is one of the principal objectives of the Forum. Recent studies within the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) estimate that investment in trade facilitation would have a very strong effect, increasing exports from transition and developing economies by tens of billions of dollars. The greatest gains to developing and transition economies would come from improvements in border crossings and customs efficiency. The institutions that have done recent studies on the benefits from trade facilitation will be invited to present their findings at the second International Forum on Trade Facilitation.

The objective is to organize the Forum as a truly interactive event. The discussion will be initiated by a limited number of speakers and will involve panellists and participants from the audience. Several background concept papers will be prepared on: the effects of trade facilitation on income distribution, the sources of developing country concerns about trade facilitation, etc. They will be made available on the Forum web site (www.unece.org/forums). In addition, the Forum will raise awareness of the necessity for further work and research of new solutions, in collaboration with UNCITRAL, on legal issues in the facilitation and simplification of trade procedures and information flows. The Forum will address the issue of trade facilitation in port procedures.

Parallel to the Forum, workshops on technical issues and intellectual property rights in trade facilitation will be organized, together with the European Patent Office and the UN Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT). It is expected that the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom (DFID) will present a study on the position and reservations of selected developing countries on the inclusion of trade facilitation in the WTO multilateral trade negotiations. This paper, based on interviews with key officials of a representative set of developing countries, attempts to understand the economic, political and legal reasons for these countries’ concerns. It suggests options for dealing with these concerns


The Forum is expected to define new, practical measures to progress trade facilitation in the new world environment. It will highlight possible ways of constructing an equitable mechanism of facilitating trade, where small and large countries and businesses will share the benefits. It will point to innovative methods for resolving the dilemma between heightened security measures and the necessity for faster movement of goods, services and information. In particular, the Forum will:

  • provide a neutral platform for an exchange of views and a policy debate among the various stakeholders in trade facilitation, especially on the issues of sharing the benefits and the balance between advancing security and trade facilitation;
  • provide a platform at which all the preparatory materials for the Fifth WTO Ministerial Meeting in Cancún can be presented and compared;
  • offer a meeting place for representatives of Governments, business and international organizations, who can then influence the decision making processes in their countries or institutions;
  • enhance the public and private sectors’ understanding of the benefits of trade facilitation which include:
  1. mproving efficiency;
  2. creating jobs;
  3. promoting transparency;
  4. enhancing government revenue; and
  5. boosting competitiveness;
  • put an emphasis on promoting mechanisms for capacity building in developing and transition economies to give substance to the Doha Development Agenda of the WTO;
  • underline the multidimensional aspects of trade facilitation;
  • emphasize the necessity for more work on the legal aspects of trade facilitation;
  • highlight the role of trade facilitation in successful e-business;
  • identify areas where new instruments, including standards, are needed;
  • enhance the mechanisms of cooperation among Governments, international organizations and the private sector, including the possibility of making the best use of a combination of regional and global competencies;
  • suggest harmonized methods for measuring progress in the implementation of trade facilitation;
  • decide on follow-up action and implementation.


A publication containing the papers produced for the Forum will be prepared.

The Forum aims at bringing together the following groups of participants:

  • government policy makers at the level of ministers and deputy-ministers, heads of customs services, ambassadors to the UN and the WTO;
  • senior business executives and chiefs of large trade associations;
  • heads of international and non-governmental organizations, donor agencies, national trade facilitation bodies, and trade associations;
  • experts specializing in international trade, trade facilitation and globalization.


The Forum, which will be the major event on trade facilitation in the world in the months before the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Cancún, will contribute to creating a positive framework for implementing international instruments and proposing an attractive set of solutions regarding trade and transport facilitation. It will suggest ways in which trade facilitation can help improve the efficiency of supply chain logistics in a volatile international trade environment. In particular it will:

  • strengthen the global network for trade facilitation within the United Nations as a place for open policy debate on the issue;
  • adopt a practical United Nations initiative fostering trade facilitation around the world, focused on the next steps that Governments, the business community and international organizations should take;
  • investigate the possibility of developing an international standard for security in trade procedures, which would apply equally to all;
  • contribute to building the political will necessary for implementing trade facilitation among various groups of countries;
  • make a substantive contribution to the preparations for the discussion of trade facilitation at the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Cancún, Mexico.

The Forum will encourage greater participation of developing and transition economies in the global trade facilitation debate.

Why you should attend

The Forum is organized at the UN in Geneva, a city that increasingly becomes the global hub for trade diplomacy. The expected benefits of the Forum are:

  • for policy makers - to participate in a network of decision makers and experts who will influence the definition of the trade facilitation agenda for the future; to obtain information that will allow them to make informed decisions in formulating national strategies and trade policy;
  • for leaders of the business community – to make their position heard among policy makers and ambassadors to the UN and WTO; to interact with other major players in trade facilitation; and to make their companies better known to the international community;
  • for intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations - to become involved in a wide, cross-sector network of government and business leaders; to carry out reality checks”; to progress inter-regional and inter-institutional cooperation in trade facilitation;
  • for academics and experts - to contribute to and become part of the development of concepts and strategies for future trade facilitation.

Participants will discuss the opportunities for enhancing world trade and economic growth. They will become acquainted with the latest trade facilitation techniques and regulatory developments, especially with regard to the new security environment in world trade, and contribute to policy debate regarding trade facilitation.

Simultaneous translation in English, French, Russian, and Spanish will be provided at the Forum.

For more details , please visit the Forum's web site: www.unece.org/forums or call :
Mr. Mario Apostolov
UNECE Trade Development and Timber Division
Tel.: +41 22 9171134
Fax: +41 22 9170037 e-mail: mario.apostolov@unece.org