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Developing Asia-Pacific States Press for Less Red Tape in Trade
Source: bworldonline.com
Source Date: Saturday, October 09, 2010
Created: Oct 10, 2010

OVER 200 individuals from 33 Asia-Pacific economies participating in the Asia-Pacific Trade Facilitation Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last Oct. 5-6 urged their governments to streamline international trade procedures and ensure that regulations are simple, consistent and transparent, a statement the United Nations released yesterday read.

The hidden cost of red tape amounts to $300 billion a year in the Asia-Pacific region, the statement read, and it takes an average of 30 days to move goods from factory to ship deck in countries of the region, compared with 10 days on average for members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Brought together by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), forum participants also called for greater regional cooperation to promote paperless trading systems and increase trade in agricultural products.

The statement quoted Malaysian Deputy Minister of Transport, Y.B. Datuk Abdul Rahim bin Bakri as telling forum participants that the importance of regional connectivity has never been more pressing.

"As a regional community, we need to step up trade facilitation to reduce trade costs and promote growth and regional integration in order to counteract declining markets of the West," he said.

Ravi Ratnayake, director of the Trade and Investment Division of ESCAP, said that "the somewhat shocking reality is that Asia Pacific is better connected to Europe and America than with itself."

He added that "our research shows that, on average, trade costs of the region with North America and Europe are 20% less than those with itself."

Cumbersome border procedures, requiring numerous approval documents, make it easier and cheaper for countries in the region to trade with far away developed countries, instead of doing more business with neighbors, Mr. Ratnayake said.

Naomi Chakwin, director of ADB’s East Asia Department, highlighted the advantages of paperless trading systems.

"The international supply chains are looking for ways to move away from a paper-based documents towards paperless information exchange. Governments want to reduce the risk of global trade through less and better data and increased efficiency. It even fits in well with the global move toward eco-efficiency with aspirations for green trade corridors," Ms. Chakwin said.

She added, that "there is still much to do to achieve paperless trading systems in the region" and all development partners "need to work together, to pool our resources and share our expertise with one another to overcome the obstacles to paperless trade."

Outlining the next steps for the region, the Commerce Minister of Bangladesh, M. Faruk Khan, said that the success of trade facilitation measures depend on "an effective and integrated approach at the macro level."

He added that "as far as I personally feel, capacity-building based on a thorough need assessment should be the immediate objective of international agencies like the UNESCAP and ADB."

He asked the United Nations Network of Experts for Paperless Trade (UN NExT) in Asia and the Pacific to help developing countries in this endeavor.

The participants adopted a road map at the end of the forum to push trade facilitation reforms at national and regional levels. Key recommendations include working towards a regional agreement for the legal recognition and electronic exchange of trade data and documents. Agricultural trade facilitation, particularly the need for governments and international development organizations to help overcome sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to trade, was also highlighted. The forum also pushed the development of sub-regional single window facilities, like that of ASEAN, to facilitate submission and processing of trade data and documents.
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