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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2702

UN Forum recognizes Sri Lanka's Trade Facilitation Efforts

By Quintus Perera – Asian Tribune

Colombo, 27 November, (Asiantribune.com): In a communiqué issued by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce indicated that Ms Ewa Bjorling, Minister for Foreign Trade of Sweden, in her key note address at the 11th UN/ CEFACT Forum of the United Nations Centre For Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (CEFACT) which was held in Stockholm, Sweden, recently has cited Sri Lanka as an example of a developing country that uses Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to facilitate international trade.

The communiqué stated that she has said that, in Sri Lanka, 90 percent of the Cargo Manifests submitted by shipping agents to the Customs are being transmitted electronically. It stated that during the technical sessions of the Forum, the Electronic Certificate of Origin (e-CO) introduced by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in July 2007 drew much interest among the membership of the Working Group on United Nations Electronic Documents (UN-eDocs).

The UN/CEFACT has a global remit for developing international trade facilitation recommendations and electronic business standards. Over 30 recommendations, standards and tools are available from UN/CEFACT to help simplify and harmonise trade procedures and information flows. These as well as supporting technical specifications are developed through a series of Working Groups consisting of representatives from governments and business community.

They focus on specific projects based on the requirements of governments and businesses. Most of their work takes place in virtual form through the Internet and video conferencing etc. regularly under an Open Development Process allowing experts the worldover to contribute to the process. A Forum of all Working Group members is held bi-annually in various locations, the most recent one being in Stockholm.

The CCC communiqué indicated that 253 experts from 32 countries from all five continents and numerous international agencies involved in trade and transport attended the Stockholm Forum. Some of the countries represented were Australia, Canada, India, Japan, Mexico, Senegal, Republic of Korea, Vietnam, UK and USA.

Besides, organisations such as the World Customs Organisation (WCO), International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association(IATA), International Maritime Organisation (IMO)and experts in field of information & communication technologies such as SWIFT. EDIFACT, ebXML attended the Forum.

The comunique indicated that the sole participent from Sri Lanka in the Stockholm Forum was T Shanta A De Silva, an expert in Trade and Transport Facilitation and Electronic Business who has written two dissertations on the Subject during his Post Graduate Studies in the UK. He has also worked as an Advisor / Consultant on the Subject on behalf of the UNCTAD/World Bank, UN-ICT, CFTC etc. in several countries. He was the Secretary of the Sri Lanka Trade Facilitation Committee that functioned under the Sri Lanka Export Development Board during 1980-1999.

De Silva was instrumental in effectively introducing to Sri Lanka, the international standards for trade and transport documents (UNLK) and also introduced Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) to Sri Lanka following his participation at the World Trade Summit held in Columbus, Ohio, USA in 1995. In 2006 he introduced UN-Electronic Documents /UN-eDocs, to Sri Lanka, a product jointly developed by UN-CEFACT and Adobe.

The communiqué indicated that during the technical sessions of the Stockholm Forum, the Electronic Certificate of Origin (e-CO) introduced by CCC in July 2007 gained much recognition since it was considered a model to emulate by other countries. The e-CO of the CCC was designed by De Silva adhering to the UNeDocs specifications/Standard using the UN-eDocs Tool Kit. The e-CO project of the CCC was an innitiative of the -German Government Technical Cooperation (GTZ )- SAARC / Trade Promotion Programme.

It indicated that during the UN-CEFACT Forum, the Working Group on UNeDocs selected De Silva and Ms. Sue Roberts of UK to identify the data elements in all types of certificates used in cross border trade. Those would be incorporated as the core-components of UN-eDocs/ebXML and Single Electronic Windows (SEW) for International Trade. The UNeDocs are ideal for adoption by the developing countries and SME s, since the technology used is Web based. Electronic Documents can be used by any one who has a PC with Adobe Reader -Version 7 or higher version, downloadable free of charge.

It indicated that De Silva proposed that adoption of trade facilitation measures could help speedy growth of an economy and proposes revamping the country's external trade procedures through an effective programme for Business Process Re-engineering adopting best practices recommended by organisations such UN-CEFACT and the World Customs Organisation (WCO).

According to the communiqué De Silva has however emphasised that the contribution technocrats can make towards achieving this goal is only 20 percent and the rest depends on the vision the policy makers and the commitment of all concerned to take effective measures to make the external trading systems efficient.

- Asian Tribune -

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