Trade facilitation and expedited shipments: Lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis

27 Apr 2020 10:30h - 12:00h

Event report

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The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the growth of e-commerce and the trend is here to stay. The need to enhance trade and expedite shipments within and between nations, the use of technology, automating processes and procedures, and co-operation between stakeholders and nations were emphasised as being essential at this time.

The logistics of e-commerce are crucial, and in times of crisis, the fulfilment and speedy delivery of critical shipments is important. However, with countries creating restrictions on movement and supply chains, e.g. border restrictions, restrictions on imports and exports; challenges in scheduling flight operations; finding new routes and transport modes for cross-border shipments; clogged warehouses; customs not upgrading to adapt to the present day crisis; and, a lack of manpower due to the health risks, e-commerce and trade are being affected.

To encourage global trade, Ms Shamika N. Sirimanne (Director of Division on Technology and Logistics, UNCTAD) said that UNCTAD has released a policy brief outlining a 10 point action plan.

Sharing Rwanda’s experience of ensuring trade during the crisis, Ms Rosine Uwamariya (Commissioner for Customs Services, Rwanda Revenue Authority) emphasised the need for nations to sensitise and keep citizens updated on the initiatives being taken by the government, the adoption of technology to simplify and expedite international trade and shipments, as well as creating a regional and national task force.

According to Mr Constantin Ciuta (Senior Customs Advisor, Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), UNCTAD), some initiatives adopted by various states in order for business to continue include: minimising cross-border formalities by adopting electronic processes, e.g. e-submission of custom documents, electronic payments, automatic license verification systems, etc.; managing health risks by reducing physical presence, such as replacing physical examination of cargo by using video cameras; and, expediting cross-border shipments.

Mr Carlos Grau Tanner (Director General of the Global Express Association) shared his opinion that nations and organisations need to adopt their processes to align with the new safety standards and circumstances.

The need for further cooperation between public and private organisations at a multilateral level, and the importance of the role played by multilateral organisations to come up with best practices and guidelines during the pandemic was highlighted. Sharing of experiences and best practices between nations during this crisis would help nations learn from each other and cope better.

Mr Stefan Krawczyk (Associate General Counsel & Head Government Relations International, eBay) said that small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have been hugely impacted and that there is a need for national strategies to support local manufacturers and sellers, rather than adopting protectionism, since the economic survival of such businesses may depend on cross-border trade.

The way forward is to deal with the current situation. There has to be a continuous dialogue between the public and private sectors. Nations need to plan for reviving their economies post the pandemic, develop their national level strategy, and support SMEs, while encouraging cross-border trade. To boost global trade, there is a need to reform global taxation, both when it comes to sales and corporate tax.

By Amrita Choudhury