Bangladesh will be able to benefit immensely by signing a regional cross-border treaty on paperless trade which aimed at reducing business cost and time, officials and experts have said.
They said the paperless trade system will help the country cut costs of doing business to some extent as well. The cost of doing business in Bangladesh is very high, a long concern of business people.
Welcoming the government's decision to be a party in the paperless trade treaty executive director of Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh Dr Ahsan H Mansur termed it as a good initiative.
"It will cut down trading costs and time. Time is money as well," he said.
Mr Mansur said Bangladesh uses ASYCUDA (Automated System for Customs Data) system in customs data transfer which is globally recognised and it permits paperless trade system.
So, in terms of infrastructural requirement for the paperless trade system Bangladesh is in the advanced position, he said.
Mr Mansur suggested that all the parties of the treaty should go for same standard of documentation which will further simplify their trading system.
A senior official at the ministry of commerce (MoC) said to reap the benefit from the system Bangladesh has decided to sign the UN sponsored framework agreement soon.
He said at a recent meeting, held at the MoC, most of the stakeholders opined in favour of becoming a party to the multilateral agreement.
They opined that Bangladesh can be benefited by many ways through signing of the agreement. Bangladesh needs capacity building for which technical and financial assistance can be found after signing of the agreement, they said.
Some of the stakeholders also opined that signing of the agreement even can play an important role in boosting intra-country trade alongside simplifying of external trade.
The UN-sponsored treaty aims at cutting down trading costs and making it hassle-free in a changing global order, officials said.
The Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific was adopted by the UNESCAP in 2012.
It aimed at conducting trading activities on the basis of electronic rather than paper documents. Once started, the parties will use electronic customs declaration, electronic certificate of origin, and other documents in soft form instead of paper format.
According to ESCAP estimate, the cross-border paperless trade will reduce export time by 24 per cent to 44 per cent, reduce trade cost by 17 per cent to 31 per cent and the regional direct cost saving across all trades will be US$1.0 billion to 7.0 billion annually.
MoC deputy secretary AHM Shafiquzzaman earlier told the FE the trade-related costs in Asia and the Pacific region will decline by $7.0 billion annually once the paperless trade begins.
He said if time and labour relating to the conventional system of trade are calculated, the savings will be large.
So, Bangladesh can benefit from the treaty immensely, he noted.
The treaty has been made available for signature since October last year and will remain open for the same until September this year.
Officials said Korea, China and Singapore have already confirmed their decisions to sign the agreement soon.
The treaty will enter into force once five member-states of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) sign it.
In the meantime, the MoC had convened an inter-agency consultancy meeting last month where stakeholders concerned attended. Two UNESCAP officials attended the meeting to sensitise the participants about the pros and cons of the multilateral trade deal.
A senior trade official said mainly the National Board of Revenue (NBR) had reservations about signing of the paperless trade treaty. But after attending the meeting, NBR officials also opined in favour of becoming a party to the agreement.
He said as part of the government's endeavour to promote paperless trade, Bangladesh has decided to establish national single window (NSW) by mid-2019.
The NBR will implement the NSW with financial and technical supports from the World Bank which facilitates electronic communication between traders and relevant government agencies.
Once established, the NSW will allow stakeholders involved in export-import activities to place standardised information and documents with a single entry point instead of submitting paper-based documents.
Officials said the NBR, the central bank, the Office of the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms, banks, Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) and other service-providing agencies will remain connected with each other through the NSW trade superhighway.