Customs officials from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies are initiating a digital revolution using the single window concept to make trade easier, cheaper, and more feasible for businesses in the Asia-Pacific.
The initiative will focus on aligning one-stop platforms for completing import and export clearance requirements, called “single window” systems, which APEC economies are deploying to facilitate the movement of goods across borders and reduce costly shipping delays.
“The findings of a new study on single window interoperability from the APEC Policy Support Unit aim to guide this pioneering push to maximize these systems’ benefits and enable more firms to trade, advanced during customs officials’ meeting over the past week in Port Moresby,” said the APEC Sub-Committee on Customs Procedures in a statement August 13.
“As customs authorities in APEC economies harness technology to improve data flows between businesses and border control agencies, we are beginning to think about how our approaches can fit together to make cross-border trade more seamless and efficient,” explained James Kombuk Bire, chair of the sub-committee.
“Harmonizing customs procedures in the APEC region as they become more automated could make it that much easier and cheaper to ship around the region, and encourage businesses on the small end of the spectrum to trade in greater numbers,” continued Bire, who is also commissioner of trade and corporate services at Papua New Guinea’s Customs Service.
All 21 APEC member economies have notified acceptance of the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement for reducing red tape and streamlining customs, boosted by collaborative single window system development and capacity building projects in the region. This work has helped to reduce the time it takes to export in APEC economies 16% between 2014 and 2017, from three days to 2.5 days, and reduce the cost 8% to US$436 over this same period.
Automating the transfer and processing of shipping information like health, security, and financial data via single windows can save as much as US$115 per cargo container, lowering trade costs for businesses of all sizes, the APEC Policy Support Unit reported.
“Connecting APEC economies’ single window systems could multiply their advantages,” added Julio Chan, APEC general coordinator for the Foreign Trade and Tourism Ministry of Peru. “Emerging markets have particular room to reduce trade costs utilizing APEC cooperation which could greatly benefit both domestic and regional importers and exporters.”
“Single window system interoperability is still in its infancy in the region,” said Dr. Akhmad Bayhaqi, a senior analyst at the APEC Policy Support Unit and co-author of the study. “Work in APEC to bridge legal and regulatory frameworks, trade procedures and data standards is key to reducing task duplication, risks and lost time in customs processing in the region.”
“Adaptive architecture can help customs authorities navigate technological change and uphold data security, encouraging seamless data exchange across borders and supporting smoother and faster trade,” advised Bayhaqi. “Blockchain technology, while not yet mature, has potential to promote paperless trade which could reduce documentation and processing costs.”
Photo courtesy of APEC