"Assess needs" is the first step for policy makers and managers when considering trade facilitation reform. It consists of a comprehensive analysis of key obstacles to timely and cost-effective cross-border trade, and it reveals what opportunities exist to improve performance.
Although trade is mainly a private sector activity, governments play an essential role in improving the competitiveness of national businesses and easing their access to global supply chains, through trade regulations and procedures. Determining where the weakest links are and addressing them through targeted interventions is an essential element of a countrys trade facilitation agenda.
- Use of existing performance indicators: The analysis should be conducted using performance indicators that take into account factors such as import/export times and costs, number of documents and agencies involved, clearance times, inspection requirements, and the productivity of a particular transport mode (air, maritime, road). Measurements should cover most elements of the supply chain, including banking requirements, Customs procedures, controls, payment systems, geographical position, IT and physical infrastructure, and transport systems.
- Ensure input from relevant government perspectives: It is important to give relevant government entities the opportunity to provide input from different perspectives depending on the perceived scope of the trade facilitation reform at hand. For instance, if the scope is to improve conditions for foreign trade, the number of entities involved must be larger than if the scope were transit operations.
- Invite trade for consultations: The analysis requires wide consultation with key players for trade facilitation, i.e. through interviews/questionnaires/ad-hoc meetings. Such players include forwarders/agents/brokers/transport operators, exporters and importers, shipping lines and shipping agents, road carriers, airlines, express operators, railways, ports, airports, border crossing points, Customs, commercial banks, exchange control agencies, pre-shipment inspection agencies, chambers of commerce, and departments of trade.
- Use of third-party assessment programmes: A number of international organizations and private companies offer technical assistance and consultancy services to countries that need to understand their current trade facilitation situation. Such international organizations include the World Bank, UNECE with its UN/CEFACT, UNCTAD and the WCO.
A number of methodologies are available from international organizations, and include the recently updated WB Trade and Tranport Facilitation Assessment and the WCO Time Release Study.
UNECE has also produced an Evaluation Methodology for Analyzing Procedural and Regulatory Barriers to Cross-border Trade.
UNNExT has produced the Trade and Transport Facilitation Monitoring Mechanism (TTFMM).