Sri Lanka forum highlights paperless trade benefits

Nov 01, 2012 (LBO) – Reducing red tape and adopting paperless systems will improve competitiveness of South Asian countries whose intra-regional trade costs are almost 50 percent higher than those of East Asia, a UN trade official said. And getting importers and exporters involved in designing such systems is essential as government initiatives without private sector consultation are likely to fail, Ravi Ratnayake told a trade facilitation forum in Colombo.

“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