UNCTAD Releases Ten-Point Plan to Bolster Global Transport
UNCTAD has issued an action plan it says will eliminate barriers to trade and transport and ensure the free flow of goods, food and essential supplies.
Early evidence shows that international trade is collapsing, says UNCTAD, threatening access to goods and critical supplies.
UNCTAD's policy brief echoes an earlier call by UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi to keep ships moving, ports open and cross-border trade flowing.
UNCTAD proposes 10 policy measures to cover maritime transport, customs operations, transit, transparency and legal issues, as well as technology to enhance paperless trade processes. The plan calls for policies that:
• Ensure uninterrupted shipping
• Keep ports open
• Protect international trade of critical goods and speed up customs clearance and trade facilitation
• Facilitate cross-border transport
• Ensure the right of transit
• Safeguard transparency and up-to-date information
• Promote paperless systems
• Address early-on legal implications for commercial parties
• Protect shippers and transport service providers alike
• Prioritize technical assistance
The policy brief calls on governments to ensure health measures are implemented in ports and border crossings in ways that minimize interference with international traffic and trade. It also emphasizes the need for people involved in the movement of trucks, ships, and planes to be given the status of critical personnel.
For ports, in particular, the brief calls for ports to remain open to ships and intermodal connections. Staggered working hours and non-stop operations, if not already practiced, can help spread workloads and physical contacts. Certain restrictions – for example, on weekend operations – may need to be lifted during the current emergency.
Developing countries face particularly challenging conditions, says UNCTAD, and need enhanced support from the development community, as well as cooperation to keep trade moving. UNCTAD already works with developing countries to support their trade and transport facilitation efforts. For example, the ASYCUDA program offers a technology solution for customs automation and a single window for trade. UNCTAD also trains officials to build port management capacity, works with national trade facilitation committees and provides technical assistance to improve transport transit in developing countries.
Soon after lockdown measures commenced throughout the world, UNCTAD issued a set of guidelines and recommendations for customs agencies and port operators to safeguard trade and transport while fighting COVID-19.
The 10 point action plan is available here.