An agreement among countries in the Asia Pacific region to facilitate cross-border exchange of trade data and documents through paperless electronic means comes into effect today, 20 February.
Member countries of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, or UNESCAP, adopted the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific in 2016.
Supported by the UNESCAP and joint efforts of 25 countries, the agreement – also ratified by Bangladesh – was adopted to accelerate inter-country trade in Asia and the Pacific, said a commerce ministry press release.
The present 53 ESCAP member countries can participate in the agreement.
Besides Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, China, Iran and the Philippines have already ratified the agreement. Armenia and Cambodia have also signed it. Other ESCAP member countries in the region have taken steps to sign the agreement.
The paperless trade – or digital trade – method has already been adopted in eliminating the complexities created by Covid-19 in inter-country trade. The cross-border paperless trade system will play an effective role in facilitating trade in post-Covid world trade, says the commerce ministry.
In addition, cross-border paperless trade can play a significant role in building Bangladesh's trade capacity, e-commerce and digital economy, it points out.
Implementing the Framework Agreement will reduce the time and cost of conducting international trade.
According to the UNESCAP, through the joint implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and the UNESCAP Cross-border Paperless Trade, Bangladesh can reduce the cost of trade by 33% which is equivalent to $7 billion annually, reads the press release.
As a result of Bangladesh's graduation to a developing country, it could receive technical assistance under the agreement to address possible trade constraints. Through the implementation of the agreement, Bangladesh's position on the Ease of Doing Business Index will move forward and Bangladesh will be able to attract more foreign investment.
In addition, there will be a possibility of getting international assistance for the implementation of the government's One Stop Service and National Single Window Project. Bangladesh's position in international trade will be strong.
Through this, the prime minister's dream of building Digital Bangladesh and building a high income country in accordance with Vision 2041 will be accelerated, says the press release.
The implementation process of the agreement is easy and flexible. Any ESCAP member, regardless of whether it is a developed or a developing country, can join the agreement. If the agreement is implemented, it will facilitate the implementation of the WTO TFA and the National Single Window system.
Countries in the Asia-Pacific region can increase trade capacity by joining the agreement. At the same time, through its implementation, the Asia-Pacific countries will be able to meet the challenges posed by e-commerce and the digital economy.