In a recent global survey on COVID-19’s impact on trade to identify the challenges currently facing the government and private sectors in moving goods, the results signalled a gulf between access to trade-related information and the implementation of that information.
The survey, conducted by the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility,* canvassed which trade-related processes have become more – or less – cumbersome or time-consuming in the context of the efforts to contain the pandemic.
Overwhelmingly “Access to trade-related information” trumped as being less cumbersome compared with all the alternatives in this current climate: import-export documentary requirements, controls and inspection; release and clearance of goods; border agency coordination and cooperation; and freedom of transit. Correspondingly, it tanked as being the most cumbersome.
Value of information in its implementation
What was most telling is that despite these findings, access to trade-related information again trumped the others, in response to the final question, probing which of the options would have the most impact if implemented in this COVID-19 climate.
So, this survey reveals that across all sectors there’s plenty of trade-related information out there, no problem about that, access is easy, but it’s accessing the right information, distilling it and making it work for your business that’s hard. That’s the challenge.
“Consuming trade-related information, having more of it available and presenting it in such a way that it can be retrieved and analysed quickly seems to be hailed as having an even more positive impact,” explains Zoe Martinez, Senior Principal Consultant at Thomson Reuters.
Focusing on ONESOURCE Global Trade’s Analyser, Martinez at Thomson Reuters says of the unique tool, that “its content is almost like a library, it’s a one-stop shop for the regulatory information you need when you import and export from a country”.
But she warns, “because there’s so much information generally available, sometimes what you need to do is look at different scenarios. For example, if you’re bringing a product in from China, what do you need to care about? And how is that different if you’re bringing that product in from Malaysia, or France?”.
Being able to look at multiple import/export options at once is paramount when supply chains and markets are changing daily. Martinez explains the essential function of this tool.
Intelligent index of content database
“Think of it as a more intelligent index or the cliff notes that sit on top of that index. You put in some variables and the Analyser knows to find the relevant information from the content database and consolidates all the data for you into a PDF or Excel document.
“It has the embedded links to take you to the detailed areas that you may need to investigate, and documents you may need to complete. It just packages everything for you very quickly, comparing all those different trade lanes at the same time, and provides your report in about 10 seconds.”
The Analyser will neatly give you the projected total payment of duties and taxes, and it will also give you insight into your potential risk, controls that may need to apply, and it will let you know the country’s ranking and how easy it is to do business with that country.
Consolidation of analytical data: It’s a wrap
“It will also let you know if there are any sanctions in place, and it will present you with information on any of the import or export controls that may apply – as well as free trade agreement opportunities,” says Martinez.
“It then wraps all these important elements together in one report. This analytical tool is unique. It’s the brains of the data that’s invaluable to the government and private sectors.”
*The results of this WTO TFAF Survey will be shared with their partners World Bank Group, UNCTAD and the World Customs Organization.