Trading Across Borders: Technology gains in trade facilitation

Author: Doing Business
Publication: Doing Business 2017

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In the era of digital advancement and constant innovation, international trade has greatly benefitted from the development and integration of various electronic interfaces. Aspiring to advance cross-border trade through the use of digital technologies and electronic services, the World Customs Organization (WCO) declared 2016 the Year of Digital Customs. The WCO placed a special emphasis on the coordination of customs activities such as automated customs clearance systems, the implementation of single windows as well as improvement of electronic information exchanges. The goal of these activities is to promote the free flow of information and increase transparency while improving the efficiency of day-to-day trade processes.  Adding to this effort, the Doing Business trading across borders indicator measures technological advancement in the area of trade facilitation  by collecting data on the time and cost of customs clearance and inspections procedures. For the first time this year, the indicator collects data on the use and advancement of single windows around the world. 

Main Findings

  • Increased national trade digitalization leads to efficiency gains for exporters and importers.
  • Many single windows have a high level of sophistication and consist of complex networks of regulatory agencies and private actors. This is the case of the Ventanilla Única de Comercio Exterior (VUCE) in Colombia, which connects 21 public agencies and several private companies with exporters, importers, customs agents and brokers.
  • Sweden was one of the first economies to introduce a national single window in 1989. Since then, the system has evolved from an export statistics platform to a comprehensive trade facilitation tool.
  • Seaports maintain their competitive edge through the automation and modernization of port infrastructure.
  • Economies that perform well on the trading across borders indicators also tend to have lower levels of corruption.