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Development Account Projects

Deepening regional connectivity: strengthening capacities of Asian developing countries to increase intraregional trade by implementing paperless trade and transport facilitation systems


The global economic crisis has acutely affected the economic prospects for the developing countries in the Asia and the Pacific region, exposing the vulnerability of the region to shocks from outside the area. Deeper regional integration has been identified as a key to sustained growth and poverty reduction. As Asia has some of the world’s most dynamic economies, enormous potential exists to promote intraregional trade and investment there. The reality, however, is that regional connectivity is lacking for many developing countries in Asia and the Pacific. For example, it is easier and cheaper to trade with Europe and America than it is with other countries in the region. Many forms of non-physical barriers and bureaucratic red tape constrain the intraregional movement of goods, particularly affecting the opportunities for small- and medium-sized enterprises and agricultural producers to directly participate in international trade. The hidden costs of red tape amount to as much as 15 per cent of the value of goods being exported. Fulfilling export and import procedures in many developing countries takes at least 50 per cent more time than it does in developed countries. Therefore, the renewed interest in increasing intraregional trade would very much depend on how effectively trade and transport facilitation concerns are addressed, particularly through the application of information and communications technology. The project therefore intends to build the capacity of national Governments to implement paperless systems for cross-border trade and transport and to support implementation of national and regional single windows, as defined in recommendation No. 33 of the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business. The project is to be implemented by ESCAP jointly with ECE and in collaboration with UNCTAD. The United Nations Network of Experts (UNNExT) for Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, an existing community of knowledge and practice established to facilitate capacity-building on paperless trade, will be expanded as a network for paperless trade and transport. The UNNExT activities will be expanded to address the focus areas identified, facilitating transfer of knowledge between experienced developing Asian countries and subregions and those in need of capacity-building.


To build national governments’ capacity to implement paperless systems for cross-border trade and transport and support implementation of national and regional single windows to fulfill all import, export and transit related regulatory requirements as enhanced by the regional communities of knowledge and practice.

Expected accomplishments:

  • Increased knowledge and capacity of government officials (at both the policy and technical levels) and other stakeholders (logistics and ICT service providers) to develop and implement interoperable paperless systems for intra-regional trade and transport facilitation

  • Regional communities of knowledge and practice established under the project are sustainable, productive and able to facilitate implementation of paperless systems for agricultural trade facilitation, transit transport facilitation, and SME participation in international trade.

Implementation status:

Since early July 2012 when the project team was informed that the funds were available, the following actions were immediately taken to implement the project:

  1. In conjunction with Asia-Pacific Trade Facilitation Forum 2012 (APTFF 2012), a consultation meeting with UNECE on implementation of the project was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka in October 2012. The key issues of the project were presented at another back-to-back meeting held in Colombo of the UNNExT Advisory Committee. The UNNExT Single Window Implementation Toolkit was released and disseminated to the APTFF 2012. The constructive comments on the toolkit received at the APTFF 2012 provided a solid basis for preparation of the upcoming sector-specific guides of the project, as detailed in A2.2 of the project document.
  2. Prepared and organized the first coordination meeting for implementation of the project. The meeting was attended by representatives from Trade and Investment Division (TID), Transport Division (TD) and Information and Communications Technology and Disaster Risk Reduction Division (IDD) of ESCAP. The discussions and main conclusions of the meeting were subsequently shared with the project counterpart from UNECE.  The key outcomes of the meeting include the following agreements: (1) the structure and members of the project committee; (2) the approaches for access of project fund, approval process and certification; (3) the measures for sharing information and approving Terms of Reference (ToR); (4) the approach for reviewing and submitting progress reports, the terminal report and evaluation of the project; (5) the need for each Division to work out a time frame for implementation of the project; and (6) the approaches for using the evaluation questionnaire.


Subsequent to the first coordination meeting of the project, all relevant Divisions made detailed implementation plans for the project. An aggregate time frame for implementation of the project is shown in Section 6 of the current progress report.


c) One element of the project is to organize a regional forum on trade facilitation. The following substantial progress has been made in this respect: (1) due to the active support from the China International Electronic Commerce Center (CIECC), it has been decided that the 2013 regional forum will be held in China. CIECC has, in principle, agreed to cover the costs for renting the main venues of the forum; (2) the project team has been working with partner organizations such as ADB to mobilize resources for co-organizing the forum. ADB has, in principle, agreed to financially support the forum.