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Press Release: Developing Countries in Asia-Pacific catching up with developed countries on trade facilitation, reveals new UN Global Survey

Bangkok (ESCAP News) - Countries across the globe are moving towards a seamless and efficient trading environment, within and beyond national borders, making formalities in international trading simpler and increasingly digital. These preliminary findings of the Third UN Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation 2019 were released by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the four other UN Regional Commissions at the WTO Headquarters yesterday during the Global Review of Aid for Trade 2019.

Many developing countries have also made rapid progress in streamlining trade procedures, particularly in Asia and the Pacific. The Survey, led by ESCAP and covering 126 countries, shows an increase of 6 percentage points from an average of 57 per cent to 63 per cent in global average implementation rate of trade facilitation and paperless trade measures since the last Survey in 2017. Developed economies have the highest implementation rate (~80 per cent), followed by countries in East and South-East Asia (72 per cent). Pacific Small Island Developing States have the lowest implementation rate (~36 per cent).  

In the Asia-Pacific region, implementation across the region “jumped” by nearly 10 percentage points since 2017, with most progress made in Central Asia. Many of the measures included in the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement have been largely implemented. However, implementation of measures to achieve cross-border paperless trade remains much lower than that of other measures, in large part because these measures – such as electronic exchange of customs declaration or certificate of origins across borders – require trust and closer collaboration among countries. 

“Implementation of the regional UN treaty dedicated to trade digitalization, the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, adopted in 2016 could help accelerate progress in this area but is still pending entry into force,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana. She added, “Countries who accede and ratify the treaty early will be able to drive the regional agenda in this area, with potential for cutting trade costs by 25 per cent.” 

The global and regional reports including detailed data analysis, will be published later this year. The preliminary results will be also available at within a few weeks. 

For media enquiries, please contact: 

Ms. Kavita Sukanandan, Public Information Officer, Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section, ESCAP, T: (66) 2 288 1869 / E: