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Development Account Projects

Capacity-building in trade facilitation and electronic business in the Mediterranean

Background:

Globalization and rapidly advancing transport, telecommunications and information technologies are putting increasing pressure on export-oriented countries on the Mediterranean rim. Among the major factors affecting their competitiveness are the costs of goods and the speed at which they respond to market needs. Company costs increase if official procedures are complex, opaque and inefficient and if they are not widely known among the trading community. A quick response to market needs is hampered by not having access to electronic business technologies and an unawareness of how such technologies can make business operations more efficient. Such challenges have proved particularly difficult for small and medium-sized enterprises. The joint project of ECE, ESCWA and ECA addresses some of these challenges.

Objective:

To increase the competitiveness of companies in the Mediterranean region in regional and global markets, through simplifying and harmonizing trade procedures throughout the transaction chain; implementing automated processes and information technology for administration and commerce; and facilitating the participation of small- and medium-sized enterprises in electronic business

Expected accomplishments:

  • Broader application of the United Nations standards for trade facilitation and electronic business in Mediterranean countries that are not members of the European Union;
  • Establishment of a network of expertise between national institutions, the United Nations regional commissions and UNCTAD for trade facilitation and electronic business, which will also undertake to better understand the work done in this area by other international organizations;
  • Enhanced capacity for small and medium-sized enterprises in the region to join the international supply chain.

Effects and Impact:

The project provides support to ESCWA’s ongoing overall trade and transport facilitation strategy, which includes the establishment of national PRO committees and an effective regional PRO coordination mechanism. This strategy is based on the premise that public and private sector partnership in trade and transport facilitation reforms, including Customs reform, is essential for success. Project workshops and seminars are assisting the process of building consensus on the necessity of implementing existing United Nations standards. Network multiplier effects are already evident as cooperation with the “Medforist13” project of ESC Grenoble, which provides “training of trainers” in Supply Chain Management, has brought the Medforest network together with the Regional Focal Points, improving the quality of capacity-building at the local and national level. Network cooperation between the World Bank Global Facilitation Partnership and the Regional Focal points has also been strengthened, thereby achieving additional funding by potential donors within the current project for specific countries.

The project has strengthened the institutional capacity of administrations and participating companies to reduce costs and delays in the supply chain and to increase the competitive situation of the companies through simplification and harmonisation of trade procedures. The national workshops conducted under the project have raised the awareness of traders and administrations of the participating countries about the specific, national benefits of the existing instruments for trade facilitation and electronic business and the implementation related issues in the national context.