Swisscontact, on behalf of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation (GATF), on February 8 launched a new e-trade portal project in partnership with two Cambodian government institutions – the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE) and Cambodia Post.
The initiative aims to digitise the customs clearing process for small packages sent through the Cambodia Post.
The launch comes a month after the government and the GATF signed a memorandum of understanding that formalised the terms of the project, which is tailored to enable the Kingdom to fulfill its commitments under the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement.
Swisscontact noted in a statement that the two government agencies already have electronic systems in place to handle small parcel clearance, but lack a “digital link” that it said would allow them to unlock a tonne of potential.
Instead, customs declarations continue to be filled in and processed by hand, and only upon or after the shipment’s arrival, it said.
Through its implementing partner Swisscontact, the alliance aspires to tear down that roadblock with the new initiative, which seeks to develop the missing “digital link” between the two institutions.
That link would permit faster package clearance, end dependence on inconvenient paper processes, and enable shipping information to be transmitted before a package arrives at its destination country.
Swisscontact said the GATF is also working with the Cambodia Women Entrepreneurs Association (CWEA) to see to it that micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) – many of them women-led – can take full advantage of these improvements.
In this regard, the project is to set up a new online portal to act as an e-trade “one-stop service point” for MSMEs to ship goods abroad and build up their export capabilities.
Cambodia Post director-general Then Samvisoth said that allowing the customs and security information of items to be shared in advance would facilitate the movement of cross-border postal deliveries.
“This, together with the creation of the e-trade portal, will ultimately lead to better engagement of Cambodian MSMEs in the global e-trade, allowing them to enter new markets and grow their businesses.
“Cambodia Post sees this project as the very first milestone that will open further opportunities to expand our cooperation with the alliance in the future, particularly in enhancing postal capacity and helping Cambodian businesses to better seize better global e-commerce opportunities,” he said.
CWEA president Keo Mom highlighted that the new e-trade portal would enable more local women to do business effectively, saying the association is “grateful” to contribute to women’s empowerment through trade.
“It is a great honour to be supported by the alliance on this project. MSMEs will be able to take full advantage of improved customs processes for postal shipments on small package exports. If other countries can do it, why don’t we?”she stressed.
Once implemented, the project will provide a lift for Cambodia’s MSMEs, which account for only 10 per cent of its total exports despite a dominant role in the economy. That figure trails the 30 per cent share of exports reached by MSMEs in other regional economies.
Getting up to that level could potentially add $3.2 billion in exports to Cambodia’s economy, according to the release.
GATF director Philippe Isler said the “transformative project” shows how the benefits of digital trade and e-commerce can ripple through an entire economy.
“Projects like these can break down the barriers that hamper competitiveness in global markets and also ensure that smaller businesses are not only aware of the new opportunities that result, but that they can make the most of them, too,” he said.
Speaking at the event for the launch, Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak said the initiative would support the implementation of the Cambodia Trade Integration Strategy 2019-2023, E-Commerce Strategy and Go4eCAM e-commerce acceleration project.
These outline the tools and guidance needed for economic diversification, and to “leverage opportunities in new growth sectors – especially the emerging digital economy and cross-border e-commerce – for Cambodian SMEs”, he said.
“This project comes at a time when cross-border e-trade and development are needed like never before, particularly as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic accelerates the shift towards e-commerce.
“The Ministry of Commerce very much looks forward to carrying out joint activities with the alliance and Swisscontact, and other partners, and expects great progress from the project,” Sorasak said.