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UN/CEFACT recommendation to help scale up private sector successes in streamlining international trade

Published: 15 May 2019

Streamlining border crossing and helping traders to access international markets can provide significant stimulus to national economies. A Single Window for international trade is the ideal solution to achieving this; however, fostering the cooperation between government agencies and replacing existing systems can make this a challenge. And while plans are drawn, and discussions held, traders wait for the trade facilitation which should result. The private sector can often be more reactive and has in many cases already set up platforms that act as an interface between traders and government authorities.

UNECE has dubbed these “Single Submission Portals” (SSP) and has recently published a recommendation to describe their functioning and how governments can capitalize on these initiatives. From Port Community Systems to Customs Clearance Systems and Cargo Community Systems and Freight Forwarder Systems, multiple possibilities exist already on the market and provide facilitation benefits promised by Single Window implementation. There are even specific eCommerce platforms specifically targeting MSMEs to improve access to international trading markets. These SSPs can offer the declarative information and help streamline border crossing; they can also propose information exchange between economic operators creating a seamless use of information along the entire supply chain.

Several best practices from Germany, Israel, the Netherlands or at EU-level show that these private-sector driven solutions bring added value to the trading community, with between 1,500 and over 10,000 users and between 25 thousand and 36 million transactions per day. The services vary from customs or port declarations to logistics and supply chain messaging. The use of a single, recognized standard for all connections facilitates the work of the stakeholders of the platform as this helps them to connect with others and it also helps to bring on board new stakeholders. This use of standards is outlined in the best practices gathered by UNECE and shows the potential benefits of Machine to Machine interfacing to speed up communications while at the same time eliminating potential human error.

Furthermore, for these platforms to really take on the role of trusted third party, they demonstrate that establishing a strong community with clear communication is vital: 90% of the job should be preparing, explaining and communicating and 10% actually doing. This is also a lesson often neglected in ICT projects and Single Window projects, and could help avoid a lot of unwarranted resistance.

The United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), where this guidance was developed, offers a range of solutions for electronic transmission of information and guidance on similar trade facilitation tools.  It is an open standards development body where all are welcome to join from both the public and private sector and all resulting work is available free of charge online.

The full text of the Recommendation can be found at: http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/cefact/cf_plenary/2019_plenary/ECE_TRADE_C_CEFACT_2019_06E.pdf

The use cases can be found at: http://www.unece.org/cefact/single_submission_portal_repository/welcome.html

To learn more about UN/CEFACT, please visit: www.unece.org


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