Measuring Trade Facilitation

Over the years I have been involved in various initiatives that seek to measure trade facilitation and the impact of non-tariff measures (NTM). Early work focused on the direct costs associated with trade and customs procedures. This includes, for example, a very detailed study at the University of Nottingham with focus on UK/EU meat imports in collaboration with the International Meat Trade Association and the UK Port Health Association. More recently, this was extended to explore the impact of NTMs on UK food and agricultural supply chains for DEFRA. In collaboration with the Technical University Delft we also conducted extensive descriptive work – published in the World Customs Journal – that sought to highlight the many costs (direct and indirect) that arise in cross-border logistics operations.

Increasingly, the need to measure trade facilitation is also of prime importance for trade officials and policy makers. This is because the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement allows its members to hold each other accountable to their respective performance in cross-border logistics operations. There are many stakeholders involved and the trick is to work out how their respective costs and benefits that are derived from trade facilitation type interventions can be appropriately assessed. Key to note is that impact narratives might differ significantly from one organisation to the next.

With my good colleague and friend Duncan Shaw we presented an outline of an appropriate methodology at the 2017 WCO Picard Conference in Tunis. There we received very encouraging feedback and subsequently shared our thoughts in an article for WCO News. That work has continued in the form of an impact assessment for the GIZ of Montenegro’s new pre-arrival processing capabilities. What was really nice about the GIZ project was that it also allowed us to explore Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for specific impact themes that were important to stakeholders.

As highlighted in the subsequent article for WCO News, it is not all about economic benefits (though important). It is also about evaluating the alignment of trade facilitation measures with international best practices, the operational outcomes for the administrations and businesses concerned, learning, and impacts for society at large. The later also includes improved control outcomes that may be achieved in addition to any cost savings.

Please feel free to reach out. I am always happy to elaborate and discuss our work further.