Digital Trade Facilitation: Paperless Trade in Regional Trade Agreements
Most regional trade agreements now feature one or more measures for electronically exchanging trade-related data and information.
Digital trade facilitation refers to the application of modern information and communication technologies to simplify and automate international trade procedures. It is becoming essential to maintaining trade competitiveness and enabling effective participation in cross-border e-commerce.
We examine the extent to which measures aimed at dematerializing trade data and documents and enabling their electronic exchange, commonly referred to as paperless trade measures, are included in regional trade agreements (RTAs), including in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and ASEAN agreements. Such measures are most commonly found in RTA chapters on e-commerce or in those dedicated to customs and trade facilitation. Their number has doubled in RTAs between 2005–2008 and 2013–2016 at the global level. Most recent RTAs also contain more and deeper paperless trade provisions than those featured in the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.
A more detailed analysis of paperless trade measures included in selected Asia-Pacific RTAs confirms that the coverage of RTAs of paperless trade issues has become extensive, covering increasingly specific areas such as electronic certificates of origin and sanitary and phytosanitary certificates. In that context, the new Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific will be a useful tool for the harmonized implementation of many of these provisions.