COVID-19 has significantly changed the way UN/CEFACT works. As the focal point within the United Nations Economic and Social Council for trade facilitation recommendations and electronic business standards, UN/CEFACT typically convenes experts twice per year to a week-long Forum to discuss current projects and consider new ones. This year, the Forum is being held virtually through 20 online working meetings and 4 public webinars. The first slate of meetings took place in the second and third week of October bringing together some 450 experts from 44 countries.
Among the numerous, concrete outcomes of the 2-weeks discussions are several that foster governments’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
UN/CEFACT finalized the draft Pandemic Crisis Response White Paper. Developing and installing a framework of standard operating procedures during a pandemic will help facilitate effective and efficient border controls on the movements of goods. The White paper promotes the adoption of specific measures and operating procedures to facilitate and expedite joint controls of essential goods and to ease cross-border trade flows during and in the aftermath of a global health crisis. It will be presented to the UN/CEFACT Plenary in 2021.
The International Forwarding and Transport eBusiness standard, which assists countries to avoid human contact in cross-border trade, was also finalized. The standard includes booking messages (provisional booking, firm booking, booking confirmation), shipping instructions, waybill and status report and status requests.
Disaster relief and recovery
The Forum also marked the finalization of the Recommendation on the Cross-Border Facilitation Measures for Disaster Relief. The recommendation will enhance states’ existing capacity and mechanisms to manage a large influx of relief aid in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Though concentrating on the response to natural disasters, many of the key points of this recommendation can be adapted to pandemics such as COVID-19.
Trade Facilitation measures
Following a successful webinar on how to engage private sector representatives in National Trade Facilitation Bodies on 6 October 2020, experts suggested the launch of a project on this subject. A successful engagement of the private sector in a NTFB is essential to its sustainability and ultimately to the successful implementation of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and other trade facilitation reforms.
Among other issues, the groups finalized the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) eBusiness Standard, Purchase Order Financing eBusiness standard, Textile and Leather Traceability and Transparency and others.
Find out more about the UN/CEFACT current projects at: https://uncefact.unece.org/display/uncefactpublic/UNCEFACT+Projects