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APEC’S SECOND TRADE FACILITATION ACTION PLAN

1.

What is Trade Facilitation?

Trade Facilitation refers to the simplification and rationalisation of customs and other administrative procedures that hinder, delay or increase the cost of moving goods across international borders.  Or to put it another way, cutting red tape at the border for importers and exporters so that goods are delivered in the most efficient and cost effective manner.  To the benefit of business (and consumers) generally, trade facilitation is especially important for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), on which the impact of inefficient and uncertain government regulation can be greatest because of their relatively small scale of operation.  Traditionally, APEC’s trade facilitation work has also dealt with matters relating to the international movement of business people.

Trade facilitation has taken on added importance since the early 1990s due to the increasing globalisation of the world economy, which has accompanied the reduction of trade barriers.  The dramatic increase of both the volume and complexity in world trade means that it is necessary to keep trading procedures simple, predictable and transparent to allow commerce to flow as freely as possible.  In practical terms, greater certainty over the time taken to move goods in particular through increased transparency and the reduction of procedural steps involved in import/export, tends to mean lower costs for traders.  

An additional factor which has highlighted the importance of trade facilitation is the heightened security environment in which trade takes place.  This environment requires the need to balance appropriate trade security measures with the desire that these not be unduly obstructive to the conduct of commerce.

2.

APEC and Trade Facilitation

Since its inception in 1989, APEC economies have reduced tariffs (from 16.9 per cent in 1989 to 5.5 percent in 2004 - A Mid-term Stocktake of Progress Towards the Bogor Goals) and other trade barriers across the Asia-Pacific region.  This has contributed not only to more efficient domestic economies and impressive GDP growth across the region, but also a remarkable increase in intra-regional trade.  Observers of international economic affairs agree that the APEC region is significantly more open to international trade than the rest of the world.

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