Trade and Investment Facilitation

As e-commerce continues to evolve, the flow of cross-border goods and services is becoming increasingly digitized. To maintain their attractiveness as investment destinations, East Asia and Pacific region governments must adapt and champion paperless trade initiatives. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP) has been working with countries on these initiatives for some time.  

This necessity is particularly pressing for the Mekong countries, which need to bridge the developmental gap with their ASEAN counterparts to retain their competitive edge as investment hotspots. The influx of multinational investors into East Asia has promising spillover effects, such as worker migration, wage increases, technological transfers to local companies, and the growth of SMEs. With multinational companies investing more heavily in regions to which they relocate, their supply chains tend to follow suit, creating further local opportunities.

Dr Julian Latimer Clarke, Mekong Institute (MI)’s Program Specialist from the Trade and Investment Facilitation Department, presented a comprehensive overview of the current state of trade facilitation in the Asia-Pacific region to the international delegates gathered for the Standing Committee on Paperless Trade from June 19-21, 2023.

The meeting, part of an ongoing MI program funded by UNESCAP, saw attendance by representatives across the Asia-Pacific region, Central Asian republics, Russia, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and observer nations.

Dr Clarke’s speech was well received by officials and delegates, further solidifying the ongoing collaboration between UNESCAP and MI.

Additionally, the Committee on Paperless Trade aims to aid countries in fulfilling their obligations toward new-generation free trade agreements (FTAs) that encompass sophisticated measures of digital commerce and trade facilitation. These obligations are proving challenging for many Mekong region nations, and the Committee’s work is essential in navigating these complexities.

In our interconnected world, firms need to swiftly move goods between production facilities across different countries to construct complex products, such as smartphones and electrical components. Paperless trade, as championed by MI and the Committee, is integral to this process.

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