Netherlands helps developing countries digitalise trade

To foster cheaper and easier trade, the Netherlands is making an effective electronic certification tool for agricultural products available to all UN member states. This will facilitate the export of vegetables, fruit and flowers, particularly from developing countries. The Netherlands announced its offer during the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Nairobi. Foreign trade and development cooperation minister Lilianne Ploumen, who recently attended the conference, said, ‘Paperless trade is the future. The new system, known as ASYCER, has been developed by the Netherlands and has proven successful. Digitalisation enables faster processing by the customs, giving a tremendous boost to efficiency.’

UNCTAD connects UN development policy with the world of trade and investment. At the conference, agreements were made on how the global trade system can help deliver sustainably and fairly on the post-2015 development agenda. ‘In developing countries, trade and investment are a source of jobs and income, and therefore provide a way out of poverty,’ Ms Ploumen commented. ‘But it is vital that everyone should benefit, including the poorest of the poor, women and young people. The agreements we have made here are specifically designed to enable these groups to participate in economic growth.’

Partly due to the insistence of the Netherlands, a greater focus has been agreed on e-commerce and the opportunities it creates for developing countries. Ms Ploumen explained, ‘These days, trade is about much more than container terminals and distribution centres. Entrepreneurs can sell their products to the whole world from their home. Creative business people in developing countries can benefit from this. They have the world at their feet.’ Over the next four years, UNCTAD is conducting a further study of how developing countries can benefit from the emergence of e-commerce in global trade.

Agreements were also made on strengthening the economic position of young people and women. UNCTAD will advise countries and businesses on how to adapt their policy to this end. ‘Of all the possible investment options for tackling inequality, investing in women is the best,’ Ms Ploumen attested. ‘Because women, more than men, use their income for their families and their community. So if women participate in the economy on an equal footing with men, the world economy will grow by 25% in the next 10 years.’