Electronic data exchange crucial to smoother trade flows

virginia-cram-martosFacilitating and simplifying foreign trade requires political will and commitment from all partners, Abdelaziz Rabbah, Morocco’s Minister of Equipment, Transport and Logistics, told delegates at the International Single Window Conference held in Marrakech.

Delegates from more than 55 countries attended the conference, organised by the African Alliance for e-Commerce (AACE) in partnership with PORTNET, Morocco’s National Single Window for Foreign Trade.

The World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement requires member states to establish a Single Window for the electronic exchange of administrative and operational information and regulatory documents such as Customs declarations, applications for import/export permits, certificates of origin and trading invoices.

Richard Morton, Secretary General of the International Port Community Systems Association, described the electronic exchange of information as vital to smooth, efficient trade flows, and other speakers described how the introduction of a Port Community System or Single Window system in their countries had reduced container clearance times from weeks to a matter of days or even hours.

“We need to share our experiences and best practice,” said Mr Morton. “The speakers emphasised key themes for success: collaboration, transparency, engagement, technology, change management, inclusivity.

“In 2013, members of the WTO concluded that trade facilitation is critical. We need to get trade moving better across borders. The TFA signed in Bali will come into force when two-thirds of members have completed their ratification.  The agreement sets out measures for effective cooperation between Customs and other authorities, and is linked to Single Windows.”

Virginia Cram-Martos, director of the Economic Cooperation and Trade Division at UNECE, said: “There are many reasons for the move towards the Single Window model, including resource limitations. We see longer-term trends towards lower classical growth, global warming, more awareness of climate change, a more circular economy (recycling). We see energy infrastructure and financial shortages, and increasing competition.

“All of these mean that waste is no longer an option. We can no longer under-use infrastructure, over-pay financially through corruption, lose competitiveness through non-productivity, lose time and money. All of these are issues that a Single Window helps to address.”