Forging Resilient Regional Supply Chains and Connectivity

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is the United
Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

By Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana
BANGKOK, Thailand, Oct 6 2020 (IPS)

Participation in global and regional supply chains has been one
of the most reliable economic growth strategies, especially for
developing countries in Asia and the Pacific. Smooth and efficient
connectivity in both trade and transport has been indispensable to
the region’s pursuit of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable
Development.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

Yet, containment measures for the COVID-19 pandemic have
significantly interrupted production, transport, and distribution
of essential goods. They exposed vulnerabilities in supply and
underscored the costs of border procedures for transport and trade,
which require extensive human contacts and increase the risk of
infection. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which worked
hard to enter supply chains, saw their livelihoods gone.

As COVID-19 crisis forced us to catch up with the digital future
much faster than usual, there have been tremendous opportunities
offered through digitalization. Trade and supply connections still
functioned during lockdowns as customs and other government
institutions not only streamlined their procedures but also turned
to contactless and paperless trade. SMEs surviving the crisis did
so because of their agility to speedily move to digital business
operations. Businesses in textile, apparel, footwear, transport,
and other sectors have almost entirely converted to digital
operation.

Though a partial digital transition has occurred, supply chains
face challenges in economies grappling with inferior quality and
costly digital connectivity. The public sector now must catch up
with the private sector to speed up moving government services to
digital platforms. Creating enabling legal environment and
investing in hard digital infrastructure must be prioritized in
COVID-19 recovery packages.

Businesses, supported by their associations, are keen to adopt
environmental sustainability principles as an innovation mindset by
taking opportunity of global reshoring and redrafting of supply
chains. Re-enabling trade and investment and strengthening
connectivity can only be done with coordinated and collaborative
government actions at the regional level based on mutual trust,
solidarity, and sustainability.

Trade, connectivity and global supply chains, particularly
sustainable and green trade, is not a zero-sum game. To achieve
that, platforms on trade and transport initiatives to rally
regional solutions to cross-border challenges are essential.

Developing appropriate provisions in Regional Trade Agreements
(RTAs) can address crises like the pandemic. Despite countries in
Asia and the Pacific having more than half of the world’s RTAs,
not many have specific provisions to govern trade policy in
situations like COVID-19 pandemic. With a relatively weak
multilateral trading system, a “free for all” behavior has
developed, with many countries imposing trade restrictions without
any regard for the international rules or those under the RTAs they
have signed. The ongoing UN-wide initiative to develop model
provisions in RTAs to address a pandemic-like crisis is a
significant step forward.

Enhanced support for trade facilitation, trade digitalization
and development of paperless and contactless trade remains a
priority. Accelerating trade digitalization is key to progress. The
Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade
in Asia and the Pacific is expected to cut trade costs by 25 per
cent.

Finally, we must move forward rapidly to achieve digital,
resilient, and decarbonized regional connectivity. The platforms
provided by the Asian Highway Network and the Trans-Asian Railway
Network have already brought countries together to capture and
analyze their policy responses and impacts on regional
connectivity. This resulted in concrete proposals on collaborative
actions to improve its pandemic response in Asia and the
Pacific.

Despite standing at a difficult crossroads, we can ensure that
the path ahead is stronger, smoother, and well-connected than
before. Through ongoing partnerships among the United Nations
family, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia
and the Pacific (ESCAP) is working together with member States and
the private sector to accelerate achievement of the Sustainable
Development Goals and realize a sustainable recovery from the
COVID-19 crisis.

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The post
Forging Resilient Regional Supply Chains and Connectivity

appeared first on Inter Press
Service
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Excerpt:

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is the United
Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

The post
Forging Resilient Regional Supply Chains and Connectivity

appeared first on Inter Press
Service
.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Forging Resilient Regional Supply Chains and
Connectivity