Since 1947, states of the world have been working to liberalize international trade by reducing tariffs, under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and since 1995 under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreements. The main focus initially was to reduce tariffs. However, it has become increasingly clear that tariffs are not the only impediments, and perhaps not even the most important impediments, to the movement of goods across borders. The multiplicity of border agencies and the documents they require, as well as many other non-tariff barriers are significant trade barriers contributing to significantly increase costs and delays to move goods across borders. In many cases they dwarf the impact of reducing tariffs. Thus, trade facilitation has become more important over years and in 2017, a multilateral agreement was adopted by the WTO members states to address this issue: the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA)
Several definitions have been given to Trade Facilitation, but in a broad sense, the aim of Trade Facilitation is to reduce the cost of transactions as well as the time it takes to ship/receive a good from the moment the economic operator intends to export or import. This is done by simplifying and harmonizing formalities and procedures as well as making them transparent.
The latest developments in ICTs have brought great change and facilitated improvements in many areas of the economy and society, and international trade is no exception. ICTs offer enormous possibilities in the implementation of trade facilitation measures. Indeed, some provisions of the Trade Facilitation Agreement call on Members to use ICT for their implementation.
The applications of ICT to facilitate trade today are many and varied. Here, we review some of the commonly used digital solutions that contribute to trade facilitation.