The WCO and the World Economic Forum promote global convergence of technologies for trade

04 February 2021

The WCO has contributed to an insight report issued by the TradeTech (technologies for trade) in December 2020 with the title “Mapping TradeTech: Trade in the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. TradeTech is an initiative by the World Economic Forum (WEF) that provides a platform for creating and developing a partnership to co-design the norms and policies around incorporating emerging technologies into trade.

The report considers modern TradeTech in two layers, namely the layer for transforming trade data and processes from analogue to digital and another layer for optimizing and synchronizing trade process between different parties where emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G play a key role.

WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, provided the foreword for the report and stressed that Customs is not an exception in technological evolution, given its mandate to facilitate trade, protect society and ensure effective revenue collection. In this context, the topic of Digital Customs has been high on the Customs’ agenda for many years.

Dr. Mikuriya added that the current worldwide health crisis had revealed the urgent need for Customs and all supply chain stakeholders to digitize procedures and apply technology to achieve more efficient connectivity and collaboration and to enable contactless processes. However, in an environment where a seamless flow of information is essential, the digitalization of procedures should be conducted with harmonized approaches in mind, based on international standards such as the WCO Data Model.

Considering its integral role in the end-to-end supply chain, the WCO and the global Customs community are looking forward to working with the international community on how best Customs agencies can strengthen collaboration, harness technology and heighten stakeholder preparedness in order to enter tomorrow’s world with confidence. To that end, studies to implement some emerging technologies, such as blockchain, biometrics, artificial intelligence and the internet of things, are well underway in Customs administrations.

A series of technologies used in trade and those that bring the most transformative impact were outlined in the report based on a global survey conducted by the WEF from June to September 2020. The survey was conducted to understand how firms are currently using technologies in the international value chain and to assess which will have the most significant impact on global trade. Included in the list of the most transformative technologies are E-commerce/digital payment, cloud computing, IoT, Smart border systems, Digital Services, Blockchain, and AI.

The survey highlighted major outcomes from the incorporation of technologies in trade. Such outcomes include efficiency gains derived from trade facilitation and supply chain enhancement, the emergence of new digital products and service, and positive environmental gains from more efficient logistics coordination and the inclusion of smaller players in trade.

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Watch here the Accelerating Digital Trade session at Davos Agenda