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Development Account Projects

Deepening Regional Connectivity: Strengthening Capacities of Asian Developing Countries to Increase Intra-regional 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:

In progress.