MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, a global leader in container shipping and logistics, is officially introducing the electronic bill of lading (eBL) for its customers around the world, following a successful pilot phase, using a solution on an independent blockchain platform WAVE BL. The eBL enables shippers and other key supply chain stakeholders to receive and transmit the bill of lading document electronically, without any change or disruption to day-to-day business operations.
WAVE BL is a blockchain-based system that uses distributed ledger technology to ensure that all parties involved in a cargo shipment booking can issue, transfer, endorse and manage documents through a secure, decentralised network. Users can issue all originals, negotiable or non-negotiable, and exchange them via a direct, encrypted, peer-to-peer transmission. It’s also possible for users to amend documents. WAVE BL’s communication protocol is approved by the International Group of Protection & Indemnity Clubs, and meets the highest industry standards for security and privacy.
“MSC has chosen WAVE BL because it is the only solution that mirrors the traditional paper-based process that the shipping and cargo transportation industry is used to,” says André Simha, Global Chief Digital & Information Officer at MSC. “It provides a digital alternative to all the possibilities available with traditional print documents, just much faster and more secure.”
The WAVE BL platform can be used free of charge throughout 2021 for exporters, importers and traders. Users only pay for issuing the original documents, and they do not need to invest in any IT infrastructure or make operational changes in order to use the service. They can simply sign up via MSC’s website: www.msc.com/eBL.
The European Union makes it a top priority to ensure the security of its citizens and single market. Every year trillions of Euros worth of goods are imported into EU, with the EU-27 now accounting for around 15 % of the world’s trade in goods. The European Union is implementing a new customs pre-arrival security and safety programme, underpinned by a large-scale advance cargo information system – Import Control System 2 (ICS2). The programme is one of the main contributors towards establishing an integrated EU approach to reinforce customs risk management under the common risk management framework (CRMF).
The pre-arrival security and safety programme will support effective risk-based customs controls whilst facilitating free flow of legitimate trade across the EU external borders. It represents the first line of defence in terms of protection of the EU internal market and the EU consumers. The new programme will remodel the existing process in terms of IT, legal, customs risk management/controls and trade operational perspectives.
The EU’s new advance cargo information system ICS2 supports implementation of this new customs safety and security regulatory regime aimed to better protect single market and EU citizens. It will collect data about all goods entering the EU prior to their arrival. Economic Operators (EOs) will have to declare safety and security data to ICS2, through the Entry Summary Declaration (ENS). The obligation to start filing such declarations will not be the same for all EOs. It will depend on the type of services that they provide in the international movement of goods and is linked to the three release dates of ICS2 (15 March 2021, 1 March 2023, and 1 March 2024).
Advance cargo information and risk analysis will enable early identification of threats and help customs authorities to intervene at the most appropriate point in the supply chain.
ICS2 introduces more efficient and effective EU customs security and safety capabilities that will:
Increase protection of EU citizens and the internal market against security and safety threats;
Allow EU Customs authorities to better identify high-risk consignments and intervene at the most appropriate point in supply chain;
Support proportionate, targeted customs measures at the external borders in crisis response scenarios;
Facilitate cross-border clearance for the legitimate trade;
Simplify the exchange of information between Economic Operators (EOs) and EU Customs Authorities.
For more information on the ICS2 programme, refer to the EU Webpage here!
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in partnership with West Blue Consulting, United Parcel Services (UPS), Trade Law Center (TRALAC) have officially launched the eTradeHubs portal, http://www.etradehubs.com.
The eTradeHubs portal is a one-stop for Trade Tools, Information & Collaboration which aims to reduce the time and cost of doing business by supporting businesses at all levels of maturity – the micro enterprise to the multinational.
The portal which was virtually launched last week Thursday has features such as a multi country Tariff and Trade Information Tool and a Duty Calculator.
A first-time trader or existing trader wishing to import raw materials or export finished goods, can search on the portal.
The Duty Calculator further provides an estimate of the customs duty, tax and levies of the destination region or country to aid in financial and logistical planning.
eTradeHubs also provides a Trade Management Tool. Equipped with accurate trade information, the trader can proceed to transact, by generating trade compliant documentation, manage compliance, workflow and costs – all on the same platform, without the need to visit multiple regulatory agencies, entities, websites and physical offices as done previously.
The portal currently provides country data on Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and the ECOWAS sub region, with more countries and sub regions to be introduced in support of the Digitise 5 million African SMES initiative.
CC, UPS, Tralac, and West Blue Consulting through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) announced a partnership to support women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa.
The partners will offer capacity building programmes and tools, including co-developed trade and information portals called “e-Trade Hubs,” advocate for enabling public policy, and create electronic guidelines to help women entrepreneurs scale-up and digitise their businesses.
The Secretary General of ICC, Mr John W.H. Denton AO in his remarks said the economic, social, and health consequences associated with the COVID-19 pandemic had unequally impacted the lives and livelihoods of women business owners everywhere.
“We are extremely proud to partner with UPS, Tralac, and West Blue Consulting to level the playing field in Africa and provide women entrepreneurs with the required resources to digitise their businesses. Women-led businesses are the backbone of their local economies – we can’t afford to leave them behind,” he added,
The CEO and Founder of West Blue Consulting, noted that “The adoption of solutions by women in business and trade, will ensure benefits such as an increased ability for women to work from home whilst raising families; improved global market access, employment opportunities and a shift of women from the informal sector to the formal.
“The portal will provide a 24/7 collaborative space where women traders and entrepreneurs in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and of course their male peers can connect and access timely and up to date information, skills and operational tools, offered by various providers”, she added.
Ms Mintah expressed delight to partner with ICC, UPS and TRALAC to provide the needed skills training, trade information and tools via the eTradeHubs portal http://www.etradehubs.com.
President of UPS, Ms Penny Naas, the International Public Affairs & Sustainability said “Research shows that only 1 out of 5 businesses that exports is led by a woman. At UPS, we’re moving our world forward by helping women-run businesses maximize their participation in trade through public-private partnerships that provide policy recommendations and support with knowledge sharing and building skills”.
Executive Director of Tralac, Ms Trudi Hartzenberg, said the adoption of digital trade solutions for the AfCFTA would address many border management challenges that disproportionately impact women traders.
Customs activities for this year are underpinned by the World Customs Organization’s (WCO) 2021 theme “Customs bolstering recovery, resilience and renewal for sustainable global supply chain”. The colossal task that lies ahead as nations look to reconstruct their global supply chain is one of the reasons that the WCO has advocated Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) programmes as a tool to promote reconstruction.
SARS, in collaboration with the Border Management Agency (BMA), is leading the process of creating a Single Government AEO (SGAEO) programme to ensure improved trade facilitation and supply chain security in South Africa, the Southern African region, the African continent and globally. The World Bank (WB) and WCO have agreed to assist SARS to create a SGAEO programme, through the WB Trade Facilitation Programme.
The agreement to conceptualise a SGAEO for South Africa culminated in agreement that SARS and the BMA would jointly host a workshop with all agencies involved in managing trade at the border. The WB and WCO have agreed to participate in the workshop on 2 March 2021. The workshop is intended to contextualise and set the scene for the creation of a SGAEO programme in South Africa and to allow for comparison of the various OGA risk management programmes for cross border trade with the SARS AEO programme.
International drivers for Single Government AEO programmes include the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement and the WCO’s SAFE Framework of Standards. South Africa’s scoring on the OECD’s Trade Facilitation Indicator is used as input into the World Bank’s (WB) Ease of Trading across Borders in its annual Doing Business Report.
For Customs Administrations, AEO programmes are vital tools for developing trust-based partnerships with economic operators who have high levels of commitment to compliance and supply chain security. Economic operators, on the other hand, are interested in the tangible benefits offered to participants, particularly, mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) with trading partners.
While several countries have adopted different OGA (Other Government Agencies)AEO models, SARS’ preferred model is a Single Government AEO Programme with one certification process and benefits granted by all agencies.
Source: South African Revenue Service, Rae Vivier, 2 March 2021
Today, the World Customs Organization (WCO) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) released their Joint WCO-ICAO Guiding Principles for Pre-Loading Advance Cargo Information and Joint WCO-ICAO Guidelines on Alignment of the Customs Authorized Economic Operator and Aviation Security Regulated Agent/Known Consignor Programmes. These Guiding Principles and Guidelines are a result of continuous joint efforts over the last 10 years, following serious threats and vulnerabilities to international trade supply chains.
“In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to facilitate safe and secure vaccine distribution, strong collaboration among Customs, Civil Aviation Authorities and the relevant stakeholders is highly recommended,” said the WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya. “WCO and ICAO Members are encouraged to make the best use of advance cargo information for risk assessment as well as to align partnership and security programmes to ensure secure and efficient air cargo supply chains,” he added.
With the new Joint WCO-ICAO Guiding Principles for Pre-Loading Advance Cargo Information (PLACI), another layer is being added to the multi-layered approach to Aviation Security in order to detect Improvised Explosive Devices/Improvised Incendiary Devices (IED/IID) in air cargo. These PLACI principles should not be used as a standalone method of Aviation Security (AVSEC) screening or air cargo security control, but rather to perform an additional assessment of the potential Aviation Security risks represented by a consignment.
These Joint Guiding Principles comprise several key and specific principles to meet the needs and capabilities of both regulators and industry, and provide guidance for the risk analysis process. Combined with intelligence and other information, PLACI consignment data enables regulators to perform an initial assessment of the potential risks posed by a consignment. The results of the initial assessment may also indicate the need for additional action.
These Guidelines aim to assist WCO and ICAO Members wishing to assess the similarities between their Customs and AVSEC security programmes, with the intention of further aligning them. This collaborative work should ultimately lead to simplification of procedures and eradication of duplicate security requirements and controls, to the benefit of the authorities and the airline industry.
Two recent articles reaching my desk reiterate the importance of clean and standardised Customs data. Without this, any real benefits to be derived from the latest and future technologies will not be fully achieved. Downstream, a country’s economy depends on this data for accurate analysis, forecasting and policy-making. Similarly, the business community relies on accurate information to assist in better business and investment decisions.
During the 15th PICARD Conference held during 23-26 November 2020, ‘World Customs Journal Special Edition’ was introduced. The first paper of the special edition is based on the keynote speech which was given at the 14th PICARD Conference in October 2019 titled “Data Science: Policy Implications for Customs”.
“Governance by data is a growing global trend, supported by strong national public policies whose foundation is open data, artificial intelligence and decision-making supported by algorithms. Despite this trend and some technical advances, Customs face obstacles in deploying ambitious data use policies. This article describes these challenges through recent experience in some Customs administrations and considers the technical and ethical issues speci c to all law enforcement agencies in the context of customs missions, to open paths for research and propose policy recommendations for a better use of customs data.”
The second matter is perhaps more directed towards Africa. TRALAC Newsletter, of October 2002 titled“Trade and Related Matters“discusses the importance of data, specifically now with the introduction of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in January 2021.
The article considers more than just Customs trade data relating to goods. It envisages trade in services data as just as important to ensure a holistic approach –
“Trade-related data includes not only recorded values and volumes of goods trade among countries, but also data on services trade, non-tariff measures and barriers, tariffs, informal trade, trade restrictiveness, macro-economic conditions (like gross domestic product), micro-economic data (industry/firm-level data including employment, sales, profits and prices) and investment. This data is utilised by governments to make public policy decisions including the formulation of industrial, agriculture, trade and economic growth policies, strategies and regulations; trade negotiations strategies; merger and acquisition reviews; assessments of anti-competitive practices and determinations in trade remedy cases and applications for changes in tariffs. Businesses use trade information, such as tariffs in destination markets, applicable non-tariff measures, transportation costs and trade restrictiveness in combination with macro-economic indicators, firm-level data and market information to make investment, trade and market development decisions, and also to lodge trade remedy and tariff review applications and to inform their participation in public-private forums.”
The Newsletter continues to explain the notable improvements in data and reporting oer the last decade –
“Although trade and trade-related data has various uses, it needs to be useful, reliable and accurate information which is publicly available (except in the case of confidential information). This is the area where most African countries have historically fallen short although there has been some significant progress over the last decade. Initially, African trade data was only available on subscription databases and only for a select number of countries (like South Africa, Kenya and Egypt) and limited to trade in goods. There was a lack in published tariff schedules and data pertaining to non-tariff measures, investment, informal trade and services. In recent years, the availability of some data has improved significantly, especially for goods trade.
African countries are now increasingly publishing their statistics on websites of national statistics authorities and notifying their national data to the United Nations (UN). This data includes data on formal goods trade, aggregate services trade, non-tariff measures, tariffs, investment and some market information. The quality of the data has also improved as most countries now extensively verify the data prior to publication and submission. Increased access enables organisations like the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and International Trade Centre (ITC) to obtain, collate and publish trade data in databases like the ITC TradeMap and MacMap and the WTO trade portal.
As part of the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, many countries are establishing trade portals. Southern and eastern African countries that already have functioning portals include Seychelles, Eswatini, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. Some portals contain detailed information on import and export requirements by specified product, sanitary and phytosanitary requirements, port of entry and applicable tariffs. The trade portals of countries in east Africa, including Uganda and Rwanda provide details of import or export processes including the trade costs such as inspection charges, and indicate the waiting time to complete the different steps.
Once fully operational, the African Trade Observatory (ATO) will contribute significantly to the availability of African trade data and capacity building. The ATO will collect and analyse trade and trade-related qualitative and quantitative data and information, establish a database for African trade; monitor implementation and evaluate the implementation process and impact of the AfCFTA and the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-Africa Trade (BIAT); and equip national governments and businesses to analyse and use of trade and related data.
Informal trade is recognised as a major component of intra-Africa trade and this is not captured in formal trade statistics. There are a number of initiatives to gather data on informal cross-border trade (ICBT), including studies by UNECAand ongoing work by the Bank of Uganda which has been conducting surveys and reporting ICBT data since 2005.
Although there have been improvements in intra-Africa trade data, there is room for improvement.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Singapore Customs signed a historic letter of intent today that will enable closer cooperation in the areas of trade facilitation, revenue protection and risk management.
Executive Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Trade Brenda Smith signed the letter of intent in Washington, DC on behalf of CBP and Deputy Director-General Lim Teck Leong signed the letter of intent in Singapore on behalf of Singapore Customs.
The Letter of Intent to Explore Single Window Connectivity between Singapore’s Networked Trade Platform (NTP) and the U.S. Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) formalizes the United States’ and Singapore’s commitment to sharing trade data and to exploring the possible connection of the two countries’ national Single Windows for trade facilitation. Single Windows are electronic systems that automate and expedite the processing of import and export data by allowing traders to input standardized information in a single entry point to fulfill all import and export requirements. In doing so, Single Windows reduce costs, enhance accountability and improve collaboration among government agencies and the trade community.
“We value the opportunity for transparency and cooperation that a shared Single Window will bring,” said Executive Assistant Commissioner Smith. “Government-to-government data sharing is rapidly becoming an important component of efficient and secure trade, and CBP looks forward to working with Singapore Customs on this forward thinking approach to trade facilitation.”
“The signing of this letter of intent signifies the first step towards trade data connectivity between the two Customs administrations, and reinforces our commitment to maintain the security of international supply chains, while facilitating legitimate trade,” said Deputy Director-General Lim.
The collaboration between CBP and Singapore Customs complements the United States’ continued engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Single Window Steering Committee on trade facilitative data exchange and Single Window connectivity/interoperability. Singapore is an active member of ASEAN and the ASEAN Single Window.
In 2019, two-way trade in goods between the United States and Singapore totaled $57.6 billion, making Singapore the United States’ 17th largest trading partner and its second-largest trading partner in ASEAN.
Construction of the Kazungula bridge which will connect Zambia and Botswana and ultimately link the port of Durban in South Africa to the Democratic Republic of the Congo nears completion and by end of 2020 it is expected to be open to the public.
The Kazungula Bridge is located at the Kazungula crossing, where Botswana and Zambia share a border measuring about 750m over the Zambezi River. It is also at the confluence of Zambezi and Chobe rivers, and the meeting point of the four southern Africa countries – Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The US $259.3m project was officially launched in September 2014 by then Vice-presidents of Zambia and Botswana, and is financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the two governments. The multi-million-dollar project was hailed as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) economic integration success stories, one of the missing links to realizing the North-South Corridor identified under the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP).
The new bridge will facilitate trade with Botswana and within the SADC region. The project, which entails a 923 metre-long rail/road extra dosed cable stayed bridge with approach roads as well as construction of one stop border posts on the Zambia and Botswana sides; was scheduled for completion last year but failed due to Zambia’s failure to pay.
The bridge is expected to reduce transit time for freight and passengers, boost the regional economy and even increase global competitiveness of goods from Botswana and Zambia due to reduced time-based trade and transport costs.
From 1 January 2021, the transition period with the European Union (EU) will end, and the United Kingdom (UK) will operate a full, external border as a sovereign nation. This means that controls will be placed on the movement of goods between Great Britain (GB) and the EU.
The UK Government will implement full border controls on imports coming into GB from the EU. Recognising the impact of coronavirus on businesses’ ability to prepare, the UK Government has taken the decision to introduce the new border controls in three stages up until 1 July 2021.
Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) published the first iteration of the Border Operating Model in July 2020, setting out the core model that all importers and exporters will need to follow from January 2021 as well as the additional requirements for specific products such as live animals, plants, products of animal origin and high-risk food not of animal origin. We also provided important details of Member State requirements as traders and the border industry will need to ensure they are ready to comply with these, and not just Great Britain (GB) requirements. Indeed, as set out in the recently published ‘Reasonable Worst Case Scenario’ assumptions, it is largely the level of readiness for Member State requirements which will determine whether there is disruption to the flow of goods at the end of the transition period. This is why we have included additional signposting to those requirements throughout the document, and are encouraging all GB businesses not just to ensure their own readiness but also the readiness of EU businesses to whom they export, and throughout their supply chains.
Since July, the HMRC has worked closely with industry to further develop plans for the end of the transition period, and also to respond to industry questions since the publication of the first iteration of the Border Operating Model. This latest iteration of the Border Operating Model provides additional information in a number of key areas as set out below as well as clarifying a number of questions from industry.
UN COVID-19 project to support data exchange for international supply chain processes
The emergence of COVID-19 has shown an increased demand for coordination, efficient planning, modelling and risk control in many areas. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and its trade related United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) are strongly supporting multilateral engagement for interoperable cross-border standards, such as UN/CEFACT Data exchange Standards.
Multi-Model Transport Reference Data Model Ready for use
Many current regulations, standards, instructions and business capacity-building measures are available already. The comprehensive Multi-modal Transport Reference Data Model (MMT RDM) covers the requirements of international forwarding and transport, including related trade, insurance, customs and other regulatory documentary requirements based on the integration of trade facilitation best practices, developed by UN/CEFACT.
COVID-19 Project lead by GEFEG: Development of a standardised data set for the Transport sector
On behalf of the UN, GEFEG provides the project lead for the COVID 19 project. The project concentrates on ensuring the flow of goods and the transport across the various transport modes. Its overall objective is to set up a multi-modal harmonized set of mainly transport documents as a profile of the UN/CEFACT Multi-modal Transport Reference Data Model (MMT RDM).
The data sets developed include seven electronic exchange messages such as Booking Instruction, Shipping Instruction, Waybill, Bill of Lading, Packing List, Status Messages, Rapid Alert Security Food and Feed (RASFF) and their Business Requirement Specifications (BRSs). It has been checked that every data element with the same name also has the same semantic meaning.
The new profile of the MMT RDM will build a bridge to the already existing electronic exchange formats and allow a better use of state-of-the-art technologies such as block chain and APIs regarding the different transport modes.
Focusing on the different transport modes in the next phase
Additional information will be collected in the next phase, with a stronger focus on the different modes of transport. Results will be reported back to the Multi-modal Transport RDM and change processes initiated regarding relevant yet missing information in the MMT RDM. And last but not least, profiles of the MMT for the different modes of transport, such as air, rail, road, and maritime will be published.
Michael Dill, CEO of GEFEG is looking forward to welcome further participants in the project: “It will be important to get advice and hints on any missing data requirements across the various modes of transport! I would like to encourage colleagues involved in transport processes to join the next phase of the project. Your valuable input and expert knowledge would be very much appreciated.”
Interested parties wishing to participate in the project should contact firstname.lastname@example.org with subject detail: New Participant in COVID-19 project.
The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) launched the Export Barriers Monitoring Mechanism (EBMM) that will put South Africa in a strong position to provide the type of consistent, ongoing support that is needed to continuously improve the country’s export environment. The Department’s e Deputy Director-General of Export Development, Promotion and Outward Investments, Ms Lerato Mataboge said the fundamental aim of EBMM is to make the government’s support to exporters facing barriers more effective, more flexible, and more accessible.
By creating a systematic approach to monitoring these barriers, the government can develop a long-term agenda to target the most important export barriers. By addressing each individual barrier, government can begin to manage each problem with the level of nuance and detail needed for these complex challenges.
During an initial pilot project, 28 key export barriers were processed by the EBMM and during the initial phase of the national lockdown, the EBMM methodology was used to process 76 barriers related to COVID-19. From today, the EBMM is open to any firm that encounters an export barrier of any kind, whether locally or in any foreign market.
In 2018, South African exporters faced an estimated 154,571 unique customs requirements worldwide. Over the last ten years, 23,795 new or amended technical barriers to trade have been registered with the World Trade Organisation; while over the same period 13,364 sanitary and phytosanitary barriers were registered or amended.
DTIC’s priority is to work progressively to smooth these barriers, the experience of the last decade of trade has demonstrated that we need to be prepared to manage this growing complexity. Increasingly, a key component of global competitiveness will be how we manage a constantly changing global trading environment. Managing this environment will only be possible through a close working partnership between the government and the private sector.
Speaking at the same launch, the Executive Director of the South African Electrotechnical Export Council, Ms Chiboni Evans, highlighted the importance of maximising content and projects in the African continent, and the important role played by export barriers in reducing competitiveness in the region.
Persistent logistics barriers meant that transporting goods by road took longer from all our major cities to mines in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. It was then easy for these countries to import goods from Asia, Americas and Europe rather than waiting on South Africa.
Highlighting previous experiences of partnering with the dtic to resolve export barriers, Ms Evans noted that a lot of the barriers to export can only be resolved by the private sector working together with government. She added that this new mechanism will assist greatly in opening up government support to a much broader spectrum of private sector individuals.
The World Bank has suspended its Doing Business report, which ranks countries based on the costs of doing business. It is the latest crisis to beset the institution.
“A number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports,” the global institution said in a statement on August 27.
The institution said it had informed the authorities of the most affected countries, but did not name them. “We will act based on the findings and will retrospectively correct the data of countries that were most affected by the irregularities,” the statement added.
The Wall Street Journal reported that data on China, Azerbaijan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia “appeared to have been inappropriately altered.”
If confirmed, the revised data could affect the rankings of the five countries. The latest report, for example, showed vast improvement among Middle Eastern economies with Saudi Arabia climbing 30 places.
The latest report, published last year, ranked Togo and Nigeria among the 10 countries that had shown the most improvement and collectively accounted for “one-fifth of all the reforms recorded worldwide.”
There are no reports that the scores of either country were tampered with.
In the report, only two Sub-Saharan economies, Mauritius and Rwanda, ranked among the top 50. Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, and Togo ranked among the top 100 while South Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia ranked among the lowest globally.
The decision to suspend the rankings is also likely to reignite controversy around the annual report, particularly in the methodologies behind the rankings.
In the 17 years it has been published, the Doing Business reports have amassed “surprising influence over global regulatory policies,” researchers wrote in a paper published in 2019. The researchers found that the rankings strongly affect policy as governments make reforms to improve their ranking.
“Changes over time in the Doing Business rankings are not particularly meaningful. They largely reflect changes in methodology and sample—which the World Bank makes every year, without correcting earlier numbers—not changes in reality on the ground,” Researchers at the Center for Global Development wrote in February 2018.
In June, the Bretton Woods institution appointed Carmen Reinhart as its new chief economist. Reinhart’s two predecessors, Penelope Koujianou Goldberg and Paul Romer, resigned after less than two years on the job. Pinelope Goldberg quit in February, effective 1 March.
Romer quit in January 2018 after igniting a controversy around Chile’s ranking in the Ease of Doing Business Report, which he suggested may have been deliberately lowered under the presidency of left-leaning Michelle Bachelet.
A new information note published by the WTO Secretariat highlights how trade in goods and services has been affected by temporary border closures and travel restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It describes how the cross-border mobility of individuals plays an important role in both the cross-border provision and consumption of services and in manufacturing value chains.
The paper notes that sweeping travel barriers introduced in the early stages of the pandemic have given way to more fine-tuned policies aimed at allowing through “essential” foreign workers, or creating quarantine-free “travel bubbles” among partners. Nevertheless, mobility barriers have had a particularly heavy impact on tourism and education services, as well as on trade in goods, due to their effect on transport services and on information and transaction costs.
The paper notes that international cooperation has a potentially important role to play in minimizing the economic impact of mobility restrictions. For instance, exchanging information on lessons learnt about mobility restrictions and trade could help WTO members foster greater resilience in the face of future crises. Such an exercise could help with identifying options to implement travel measures that meet public health protection objectives while minimizing the negative effects on trade.
International trade and investment have always relied on the cross-border mobility of individuals.
To contain the spread of COVID-19, many WTO members imposed temporary border closures and travel restrictions. The severe restrictions on cross-border movement are not motivated by trade considerations but by public health reasons. Nevertheless, they have had a significant impact on trade. In several members, initial sweeping travel barriers have been replaced by more fine-tuned policies, aimed at allowing the movement of “essential” foreign workers, or creating “travel bubbles” permitting quarantine-free mobility among partners.
A significant amount of services trade requires physical proximity between producers and consumers. International mobility to consume or provide services abroad is one way to attain this proximity. Mobility is also important to the operations of services providers who establish a commercial presence in other countries, as well as to those who ordinarily provide services remotely across international borders.
Border measures and travel restrictions have had a particularly heavy impact on sectors such as tourism and education services. COVID-19 has triggered an unprecedented crisis for the tourism sector. In terms of travellers and revenue, international tourism in 2020 is expected to register its worst performance since 1950. In higher education, some institutions are facing a potential drop in international student enrolment of 50 to 75 per cent.
Mobility barriers also significantly affect trade in goods, through their impact on transport services and on information and transaction costs.
Restarting international mobility is unlikely to proceed in a linear fashion. Given the crossborder spill-overs resulting from measures affecting transnational mobility, a case can be made for supplementing domestic action with international cooperative efforts. WTO members may eventually wish to look into building greater preparedness and resilience for future crises, for example starting with information exchange about lessons learnt about mobility restrictions and trade. The exercise could help with identifying ways to implement travel measures that meet public health protection objectives while producing the least trade distortive effects.
Like with most businessecosystems, the functioning of global trade relies on efficient exchanges of information, especially of documents. While industries and ecosystems around the world are now digitizing associated processes and automating the bottlenecks, the business ecosystem of global shipping has been slower to realize innovation and digitization.
Supply chain processes require close coordination among many parties and a major choke point in this process is the requesting and finalizing of bills of lading with ocean carriers. There are many situations which cause even the most straight-forward flows to be disrupted and require multiple versions of documents to be created, reviewed and exchanged until final approval and the final bill of lading submission.
TradeLens Workflows utilize blockchain smart contracts to automate and digitize multi-party interactions — this helps drive efficiencies across supply chains. Let’s take a look at each major element to understand what digitizing document workflows looks like for the shipping industry.
Blockchain as the foundation
The foundation of TradeLens Workflows is a permissioned blockchain which guarantees the immutability and traceability of shipping documents and their processes on the platform. This is a very important building block in providing the trust needed to scale.
The permissioned blockchain transforms some of the basic concepts around business networks — contracts, ledgers, transactions, the flow of assets and identity of participants — and introduces the following:
Consensus. Transactions in a blockchain network are first proposed, then consented to by the group, and only then committed to the ledger.
Shared ledger. Trust anchors have an exact copy of the ledger.
Immutability. When a block is committed it is cryptographically secured with previous blocks in the ledger forming an audit log that becomes the foundation of trust.
Accountability: All participants are digitally identifiable, and each blockchain transaction is signed with a permissioned user digital certificate.
TradeLens Document sharing provides a framework for organizing and sharing trade documents related to a host of information such as shipments, consignments and transport equipment. This is all done through permissioned access according to the role of different players and includes security, version control and privacy provisions.
Each trade document is stored on a single stack within the blockchain network, under the control of the operator and accessible only to permissioned parties within a channel. Users can upload, download, view and edit documents as allowed by their permissions and access control on that specific type of document for the trade object in question.
It is important to note, only the hash of a given document is stored on the ledger. The document itself is stored securely where access is granted according to the TradeLens Data Sharing Specification. Each time a document is edited or uploaded, a new version is created and added to the document store. Every version can be verified against a hash of its original submitted content in the ledger.
Blockchain ensures the immutability and auditability of all these documents, promoting trust and alignment across trading partners.
Beyond document sharing
The TradeLens Workflow feature takes thedocument sharing capability one step further. It provides a way to interpret structured documents and take actions on them according to well-defined workflows. In other words, by understanding the purpose and contents of documents we can automate certain actions and notifications in the shipment flow.
As documents are submitted through the TradeLens API or UI, they are interpreted by looking at specific attributes that determine which trade object the document is applicable to, and which actions to perform. The actions are checked against defined rules and only specific actions by specific actors are accepted.
When all requirements are fulfilled, the document is saved and the appropriate action gets recorded as a transaction on the blockchain. Smart contracts ensure the state and progression of a TradeLens Workflow — what can be done at each step, and by which organization or actor.
Our workflows also update generated events to help notify subscribers (members of the supply chain) of the actions and results.
An example of TradeLens Workflow: SI-BL Flow
Let’s talk about a specific TradeLens Workflow — the SI-BL. This variation simplifies the process of sending a shipping instruction (SI) to the ocean carrier and receiving back a verified bill of lading (BL). The TradeLens SI-BL Workflow removes the need to manually edit, amend and transfer these critical documents, accelerating end-to-end flow to achieve a final bill of lading.
When a shipper (or their representative) submits a SI to the TradeLens Platform, it is analyzed by its attributes to determine which consignment it’s related to and which ocean carrier should be notified. Once the carrier has it, a draft BL is submitted back to the platform, the shipper can review and make amendments and share back to the carrier and so on, until a final BL is agreed upon. Because this is an automated process between systems at the shipper and carrier, manual tasks are eliminated along with their inherent delays.
There are many other variations of this flow, but the benefits come from the visibility and increased speed in processing these transactions. Also helpful for shippers, this offers a single mechanism and process for interacting with different ocean carriers with an immutable, shared audit trail for all draft BL revisions and approvals — all recorded on the blockchain ledger.
A digital ecosystem to meet old and new challenges
TradeLens Workflows help connect your ecosystem, drive information sharing and foster collaboration and trust by enabling the digitization and automation of how you work with others.
On 30 June 2020 the Secretariat of the Federal Revenue of Brazil (Receita Federal do Brasil), launched its first ever nation-wide Time Release Study (TRS) during an online live broadcasted event attended by over 4000 participants – including border agencies and the private sector, as well as Customs administrations from across the globe. The TRS, which follows the World Customs Organizations (WCO) TRS Methodology, constitutes a milestone for the Brazilian Customs Administration as it enhances transparency while providing an opportunity for an evidence based dialogue between all key stakeholders to tackle the identified bottlenecks and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of border procedures.
The TRS report was validated by the WCO in collaboration with the World Bank Group and with support of the UK’s Prosperity Fund. Speaking at the Opening Session of the launch event, WCO Deputy Secretary-General, Ricardo Treviño Chapa said: “This is a big step forward towards increased trade facilitation and provides a baseline to measure the impact of actions and reforms”. He also underlined that the Brazilian experience would be valuable to share with the wider Customs community and added that “the current health emergency shows that it is key to keep the flow of goods going”. Throughout the event the importance of the WCO’s TRS methodology was highlighted by various speakers as a vital tool for strategic planning and the implementation of the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement.
The study shows an average time measured of 7.5 days considering air, sea and road modes of transport. The Customs clearance stage accounts for less than 10% of the total time measured, while those actions under the responsibility of private agents represent more than half of the total time spent in all flows analysed.
To further increase transparency for importers and exporters, the Secretariat of the Federal Revenue of Brazil also intends to publish the raw data of the TRS.
The recording of the full launch event with Portuguese/English translation can be watched here (YouTube).
The TRS report and its Executive Summary are available here.