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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

09 December 2020

Executive Secretary delivering remarks

Opening Remarks

Distinguished participants, Dear colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the launch of the online readiness assessment guide for cross-border paperless trade.

Paperless trade can greatly enhance trade competitiveness and help address new challenges associated with e-commerce and the digital economy, which has developed even faster since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

It has been recognized as an effective way to mitigate trade disruptions during the COVID-19 crisis, providing for more seamless and resilient trade opportunities for our region and beyond.

Achieving cross-border paperless trade is a long and challenging process, requiring political will to cooperate, long-term planning and gradual implementation.

However, the benefits are worth the efforts, as enabling exchange and legal recognition of trade data and documents in the Asia-Pacific region could reduce trade costs by 25 per cent, saving the region by about $600 billion dollars annually.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to inform you that the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, a UN treaty fully dedicated to cross-border paperless trade, will enter into force on 20 February 2021, following receipt by the UN Secretary-General of China’s ratification. ​

This is a great achievement for our region, confirming the high-level commitment, vision and leadership of the region on trade digitalization. With its common set of general principles and a dedicated intergovernmental platform, the treaty will help member States build on the bilateral and subregional digital trade solutions they have already developed to achieve greater, region-wide paperless trade.

It is designed so that member States at all levels of development and digitalization can participate, leaving no one behind. I urge all member States to complete ratification as soon as possible.

The guide being launched today is expected to support member States in conducting self-assessments of their legal and technical readiness for cross-border paperless trade, as a first step towards developing a concrete action plan for implementation.

The online tool is based on legal and technical readiness assessment checklists developed by the interim Intergovernmental Steering Group on cross-border paperless trade facilitation, who negotiated the treaty.

However, this new tool is relevant to all member States globally, as it can support the implementation of not only the Framework Agreement, but also the full digital implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

Ladies and gentlemen,

ESCAP developed the guide jointly with the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), tapping into its legal expertise on e-commerce. The Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) at the WTO also supported the development of the platform, as part of a joint project with ESCAP on facilitating cross-border trade in the least developed countries (LDCs) for sustainable development. Furthermore, it benefited from other trade facilitation projects funded by China, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Korea.

I would like to express my appreciation to the members of the Legal and Technical Working Groups under the Intergovernmental Steering Group and many experts from the United Nations Network of Experts for Paperless Trade and Transport in Asia and the Pacific (UNNExT) for their contribution.

I also thank the World Trade Organization (WTO) and International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) for their participation as well as continued collaboration.

ESCAP is committed to build back better, guided by the principles of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

I wish you a very successful launch event.

Thank you.

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