"The hidden cost of red tape amounts to as much as 15 percent of the value of goods exported - over 350 billion US dollars a year in the Asia-Pacific region."
Ratnayake, director, trade and investment division of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, said their latest research shows that on average trade costs of the region with North America and Europe are 20 percent less than those with itself.
"The somewhat shocking reality is that Asia-Pacific is still better connected to Europe and America than with itself," he told the forum co hosted by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, UNESCAP and the Asian Development Bank.
"With cumbersome border procedures, sometimes requiring literally hundreds of approval documents, for many countries in the region it is easier and cheaper to trade with far away developed countries than with the country next door."Many forms of institutional barriers, regulatory procedures and bureaucratic red tape affect international trade and limit the competitiveness of many of our developing countries."
Ratnayake also said "meaningful progress" in trade facilitation can only be achieved through effective consultations between the public and the private sector.
Slow progress in in streamlining trade procedures has been attributed to lack of political will and inter-agency co-operation mechanisms at the national level.
"However, another important reason for slow progress is that new regulations touted as trade facilitation measures by governments are often designed without proper consultation with the private sector," Ratnayake said.
"The reality is that it is importers and exporters who know best where inefficiencies lie, and implementing trade facilitation measures without their involvement is most likely to fail."