What is trade facilitation?

Businesses have to deal with a wide range of issues when moving goods across national borders. These concern, for example: the collection of customs duties and taxes; licensing requirements; the enforcement of prohibitions and restrictions; veterinary and phytosanitary checks; supply chain security; the enforcement of environmental policies; and compliance with market standards.

Trade facilitation is about reducing the impact of trade and customs procedures upon business operations without undermining their regulatory objectives. Applied well, trade facilitation can also help border agencies achieve significantly improved border control outcomes. There are many good ideas about how to improve trade facilitation. Frequently, standard trade facilitation measures are now tied to international recommendations, obligations and commitments, such as:

  • the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement;
  • the work of the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and its Revised Kyoto [Customs] Agreement, SAFE Framework of Standards, and similar instruments; and
  • the work of various United Nations (UN) organisations, especially that of UNCTAD, ITC and CEFACT.

Usually, practical trade facilitation solutions are also developed from the bottom-up by working with the business community – for example through the agency of National Trade Facilitation Committees – to help make compliance with trade and customs procedures as easy as possible and at minimal cost.

For a practical overview of the many trade facilitation ideas and concepts consider browsing the United Nations Trade Facilitation Implementation Guide. I published a detailed conceptual review for the Journal of World Trade. Similar articles can also be found for free on ResearchGate. It goes without saying that this subject is at the core of my recent book: “Cross-Border Logistics Operations: effective trade facilitation and border management“.

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any further questions.