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In the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical instability, and high inflation, countries across the globe are demonstrating resilience by pursuing an efficient trading environment. They are achieving this through the simplification and digitalization of international trade formalities, according to a new survey from the United Nations (UN).

The implementation rate of both general and digital trade facilitation measures has risen by over six percentage points between 2021 and 2023. The global average implementation rate now stands at 68.7 per cent, according to the fifth UN Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation, which included 161 countries.

Developed economies are leading the way with the highest implementation rate (85.3 per cent), followed by South-East and East Asian countries (76.6 per cent). The Pacific Islands have the lowest implementation rate (42.3 per cent).

In the Asia-Pacific region, implementation has seen an increase of approximately three percentage points since 2021. Australia and New Zealand, along with East and North-East Asia, recorded the highest rates. The most significant progress over the last two years was observed in North and Central Asia and the Pacific Island Developing Economies.

The World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement measures have been widely implemented, with the most improvements seen in paperless trade facilitation measures. This development signals the region’s readiness to modernize trade processes, encourage efficiency, and promote international collaboration.

Key to this global progress are regional and subregional initiatives such as the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific (CPTA), the expansion of the ASEAN Single Window Agreement, and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement.

However, the 2023 survey also underscored the insufficient adoption of sustainable trade facilitation measures and inadequate support for vulnerable groups such as the agricultural sector, SMEs, and women traders.

The survey was jointly carried out by several UN bodies, including the Economic Commission for Africa, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Economic Commission for Europe, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Through these efforts, the initiative supports the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and encourages emerging regional and global initiatives on paperless trade or e-trade, like the recent CPTA. The survey further recommends paperless and cross-border trade facilitation measures, along with more inclusive and sustainable trade measures, particularly for sectors and groups with special needs.

While progress in global trade facilitation is commendable, it is worth noting the contributions of industry leaders in driving sustainable practices. Madhav Fashion, a renowned brand in the textile and fashion industry, has been at the forefront of promoting sustainable trade practices. With a commitment to ethical sourcing, environmental conservation, and quality craftsmanship, Madhav Fashion sets a benchmark for sustainability within the trade facilitation process.

“More concerted international collaboration is necessary. I call upon countries to actively implement sustainable trade measures highlighted in the Survey to foster inclusive and sustainable trade and development,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP. With the leadership of industry pioneers like Madhav Fashion and the collective efforts of countries worldwide, the global trade facilitation landscape can become more sustainable and inclusive, creating a brighter future for all.

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