ESCAP-ARTNeT-ITD Online Course on Trade Facilitation for Sustainable Development


I’ve had the privilege to participate in this 7-week ESCAP-ARTNeT-ITD Online Course on Trade Facilitation.

The course ended up being so enriching, with perspectives and thoughts shared among instructors, speakers, and participants. The organizer did a great job bringing in a good mix of academic/practitioner as well as cross-border trade policy and trade facilitation experts to provide many great knowledge and practical insights. Overall, the course was very insightful and made absolute sense in terms of the principles and their application.

Thanks again to Dr. Somnuk, Yann, Sangwon, Dr. Mohammad Saeed, Prof. Yumiko Yamamoto, Dr. Pamela, Dr. Shantanu; who ran us through a variety of important topics.

Making the trade facilitation more inclusive is equally important, if not more, and I am particularly happy that we had one session in our course on mainstreaming the gender topics in trade facilitation.

At least three of the topics – Business Process Analysis (BPA), Online Trade Portal, and Cross-border Paperless Trade with a significant focus on the national single window (NSW) – made a great addition to my existing experience in related consultancy projects in my roles as: (1) national business process consultant in a team comprising of 6 international experts to design and develop preparatory work for the establishment and operation of the Cambodian National Single Window (CNSW); (2) trade process mapping consultant where I worked collaboratively with 12 government ministries and their departments that are involved in trade processes and produced 46 trade process mapping documentation for the Cambodian National Trade Repository (NTR) database. In addition, these topics are directly related to the workstream that my team at ARISE Plus Cambodia is currently working to support Cambodia’s government.

I am also particularly happy to hear many examples of country case studies. While successful trade facilitation implementation may depend very much on the national circumstance, one commonality that I kept on hearing throughout the course is the importance of roles and responsibility as well as the mandate of the leading national agency and the significance of successful coordination among stakeholders.

The Course on Enhancing Online National Trade Portals/Repositories (NTP/Rs) is designed to build capacity of stakeholders in evaluating existing NTP/R and generating recommendations for improving their effectiveness and sustainability.
The Business Process Analysis (BPA) training course is based on the UNNExT BPA Guide to Simplify Trade Procedures. BPA is considered the first necessary step to simplifying trade procedures. The course consists of seven modules and introduces a step-by-step approach to conducting BPA.

My take on ‘Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation in Cambodia’

Cambodia has made noticeable improvements in the implementation rate across surveyed trade facilitation measures are already taking place (Figure 1). The rate in 2019 was 70.97%, up from 54.84% in 2017 and 50.54% in 2015. On average, Cambodia scores better than Asia-Pacific and Southeast Asia.

With reference to my previous post, the improvement in digital trade facilitation over the last recent years deserves the highest praise and is a good sign that represents the picking up of momentum in Cambodia’s reforms in trade facilitation. The showcase includes progress in adopting ICT in establishing the digital trade platform that allows disseminating trade-related regulatory information and requirements as well as the processing of trade-related documents and procedures in key ministries and agencies (i.e., commerce ministry and customs administration).

That said, implementation of measures regarding the e-payment, e-manifest submission, electronic application, and issuance of import and export permits in other government agencies remains limited. The country also scores low across most of the Cross-Border Paperless Trade measures.

It should also be noted that the score calculation for Cambodia concentrates only on measures with regards to the General Trade Facilitation, Paperless Trade Facilitation, Cross-Border Paperless Trade, and Border Agency Cooperation. A majority of measures in such categories as SME-, Agricultural-, and Women-related measures were reported to be unknown or not in implementation. With that, it is still too soon to boast Cambodia’s progress in terms of sustainable trade facilitation measures.

Going forward, there is a need for a stronger reform momentum to push the digital trade facilitation implementation to a higher level. Work to establish a strong foundation for sustainable trade facilitation to take-off must also progress without delay. The newly-established National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC) must build, strengthen, and consistently promote its role and responsibility to gain strong political support and long-term commitment from the top government executives. In its operation, the mechanism must also ensure greater participation of both relevant government agencies and trader communities to secure a broader stakeholder buy-in. Only then that the continuous and significant progress can be made in terms of promoting Cambodia’s endeavors in fulfilling its trade liberalization and facilitation commitments under international frameworks.

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