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PH improves score in 2021 UN trade facilitation survey

  • The Philippines continued to improve its overall performance in the latest United Nations Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation report, scoring 86.02% in 2021 from 80.65% in 2019
  • The Philippines maintained its perfect score in the areas of formalities and transparency, and improved its scores in cross-border paperless trade, paperless trade, and institutional arrangement and cooperation
  • In Southeast Asia, the Philippines tied with Malaysia in third place
  • Singapore bested all other Southeast Asian countries in the survey
  • According to the UN report, the Philippines has fully implemented all measures for general trade facilitation and mostly fully implemented paperless trade facilitation measures

The Philippines’ overall performance in the latest United Nations Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation report continues to improve, as the country scored 86.02% in 2021 from 80.65% in 2019.

The biennial report shows the Philippines maintained its 100% score for formalities and transparency, while improving in the area of cross-border paperless trade (61.11% from 55.56% in 2019); paperless trade (85.19% from 77.78%); and institutional arrangement and cooperation (77.78% from 55.6%).

The latest installment of the report (formerly known as the Global Survey on Trade Facilitation and Paperless Trade Implementation) was jointly conducted by all five UN regional commissions and launched on July 14.

The survey covers 143 economies around the globe and 58 measures related to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) as well as emerging regional and global initiatives on paperless trade or e-trade, such as the recent Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific.

It covers a WTO TFA+ set of nearly 60 trade facilitation measures categorized into ten groups, namely: general trade facilitation measures; paperless trade; cross-border paperless trade; border agency cooperation; transit facilitation; trade facilitation for SMEs; agricultural trade facilitation; women in trade facilitation; trade finance for trade facilitation; and trade facilitation in times of crisis.

This year’s survey paid closer attention to sectors and groups with special needs, such as the agricultural sector, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and women traders. A new module on trade facilitation during times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic was also integrated.

In Southeast Asia, the Philippines was tied in third place with Malaysia. Singapore had the highest score at 95.7%, followed by Thailand with 87.10%. In fourth to ninth place were Indonesia (84.95%), Brunei tied with Cambodia (78.49%), Vietnam (66.67%), Myanmar (65.59%), Laos (63.44%), and Timor-Leste (24.73%).

Among developed economies, Australia garnered the highest total score at 96.77%. It was followed by New Zealand, Belgium, Netherlands, Japan, Austria, Estonia, Switzerland, Canada, and the Czech Republic.

Implementation commitments

According to this year’s survey, the Philippines has fully implemented all measures for general trade facilitation and mostly fully implemented paperless trade facilitation measures. Almost all measures for cross-border paperless trade are partially implemented, and half of border agency cooperation measures partially adopted as well.

Measures for agriculture facilitation and trade facilitation in times of crises are either partially or fully implemented, while there are varying statuses of implementation for SME facilitation, women in trade facilitation, and trade finance facilitation.

Transit facilitation measures are not available.

General trade facilitation measures fully implemented in the Philippines, according to the study, include a national trade facilitation committee or similar body; publication of existing import-export regulations on the internet; advance publication/notification of new trade-related regulations before their implementation; and advance ruling on tariff classification and origin of imported goods.

It also includes risk management; pre-arrival processing; independent appeal mechanism; separation of release from final determination of customs duties, taxes, fees and charges; establishment and publication of average release times; expedited shipments; post-clearance audit; trade facilitation measures for authorized operators; and acceptance of copies of original supporting documents required for import, export or transit formalities.

An automated Customs system is among the Philippines’ fully implemented paperless trade facilitation measures in addition to internet connection available to Customs and other trade control agencies; electronic submission of Customs declarations; electronic payment of Customs duties and fees; and electronic submission of sea and air cargo manifests.

Still partially implemented are the electronic single window system; electronic application and issuance of import and export permit; electronic application and issuance of preferential certificate of origin (CO); and electronic application for customs refunds.

Majority of Philippine measures towards cross-border paperless trade remain partially implemented based on the latest survey, including laws and regulations for electronic transactions; recognized certification authority; electronic exchange of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) certificate; paperless collection of payment from a documentary letter of credit; and electronic exchange of CO. At the planning stage is the electronic exchange of customs declaration.

In the area of border agency cooperation, partially implemented measures are national legislative framework and/or institutional arrangements for border agencies cooperation as well as government agencies delegating border controls to customs authorities. Measures that align working days and hours with neighboring countries at border crossings and aligning of formalities and procedures with neighboring countries at border crossings are not available.

Special measures for SMEs

According to the study, trade-related information and other special measures for SMEs are now fully implemented in the Philippines, while other special measures for SMEs under the WTO TFA are partially implemented. Unimplemented are measures allowing SMEs to join in the Authorized Economic Operator scheme, have access to the single window, and participate in the national trade facilitation.

Fully implemented agriculture-related facilitation measures include the adoption of national standards and accreditation bodies to facilitate compliance with SPS and special treatment for perishable goods. However, testing and laboratory facilities available to meet SPS of main trading partners and electronic application and issuance of SPS certificates remain partially implemented.

In the area of women-related facilitation measures, actions to benefit women involved in trade in the Philippines are partially implemented, while trade facilitation policy/strategy that incorporates special consideration of female traders is at the planning stage. Women membership in the national trade facilitation committee or similar bodies is unknown.

As for trade finance-related facilitation measures, only a variety of trade finances available is partially implemented. Unknown are the status for the single window that facilitates traders’ access to finance as well as authorities engaged in blockchain-based supply chain project covering trade finance.

Lastly for trade facilitation measures in times of crises such as COVID, the Philippines has fully implemented the online publication of emergency trade facilitation measures as well as coordination between countries on emergency trade facilitation measures. Partially implemented are additional trade facilitation measures to facilitate trade in times of emergencies along with the agency in place to manage trade facilitation in times of crises and emergencies.

The UN survey results are seen to enable countries and development partners better understand and monitor progress on trade facilitation, support evidence-based public policies, share best practices, and identify capacity building and technical assistance need.

According to a UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific statement, countries across the globe are continuing to move towards a seamless and efficient trading environment, within and beyond national borders, by simplifying and digitalizing formalities in international trading, helping to sustain international trade despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It noted that many developing countries have made rapid progress in streamlining trade procedures, particularly in Asia and the Pacific. – Roumina Pablo

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