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Trade and Industry Department The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Brand Hong Kong - Asia world city

APEC Trade Facilitation Principle

Reaffirming the key importance of trade facilitation in achieving the Bogor goal of free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific, in providing significant benefits for both governments and business, and in generating welfare gains for the economy as a whole;

Recognizing that APEC's trade facilitation work plays an important role in improving business conditions in the region by creating a climate that increases trading opportunities and helps business, including SMEs, to save time and reduce costs;

Recognizing that in facilitating trade there should be sufficient, and no more burdensome or restrictive than necessary, compliance with legitimate policy objectives, such as protection of health and safety, and protection against unlawful activities, such as commercial fraud and trafficking in illegal goods;

Noting APEC's unique approach in advancing trade facilitation goals on a voluntary basis and in a cooperative manner with the business sector through the process of individual and collective actions;

Recognizing and drawing upon the advances already made by different fora and sub-fora of APEC on trade facilitation, and taking into account trade facilitation work elsewhere (e.g. the World Trade Organization) with a view to avoiding duplication;

Noting that the development of a set of general principles on trade facilitation can provide a stronger focus for APEC's future work on trade facilitation, add value to trade facilitation initiatives elsewhere, and assist policy makers and executors of APEC member economies in formulating and implementing trade measures which are pro-business;

Noting that trade facilitation generally refers to the simplification, harmonization, use of new technology and other measures to address procedural and administrative impediments to trade;

Recognizing that trade facilitation is relevant to both goods and services;

Recognizing that the development of trade facilitation principles is guided by the general principles of APEC in the Osaka Action Agenda;

Recognizing that the principles are non-binding and their implementation by each member economy is voluntary, taking into account the different levels of economic and technological development among APEC economies, and their diverse circumstances, including different legal frameworks, starting points and development objectives;

Recognizing the importance of technical assistance and cooperation in APEC and their relevance in the application of the principles by individual member economies in view of their different levels of development, and acknowledging APEC's role in making available appropriate capacity building programmes to assist developing members in creating a more conducive business environment;

Recognizing that some specific elements relating to trade facilitation are also reflected in the existing WTO framework;

APEC endorses the following principles :


Information on policies, laws, regulations, administrative rulings, licensing, certification, qualification and registration requirements, technical regulations, standards, guidelines, procedures and practices relating to trade in goods and services (hereinafter referred to as rules and procedures relating to trade) should be made available to all interested parties, consistently and in a timely manner, through readily accessible, widely available medium at no cost or a reasonable cost.

Illustrative Examples :

Making available to all interested parties up-to-date information on rules and procedures relating to trade through publications and electronic homepages, and launching publicity on these avenues.

Providing as much information as possible on rules and procedures, and details of enquiry points, in economies' e-IAPs.

Communication and Consultations

The authorities should strive to facilitate and promote effective mechanisms for exchanges with stakeholders, especially business and the trading community, and stakeholders' views should be duly taken into account in the process. Where appropriate, opportunities should be provided for consultation with stakeholders when formulating, implementing and reviewing rules and procedures relating to trade, and the authorities should make known their positions.

Illustrative Examples :

Setting up customer liaison groups to collect views of stakeholders on services relating to trade.

Consulting appropriate industry representatives, consumer group representatives and sectoral/professional bodies in developing regulations or standards – to increase the degree of confidence on all sides that the reasons for regulation are clearly understood, and to heighten the likelihood of compliance with measures once they are introduced.

Having discussions or dialogue sessions with stakeholders prior to formulating new rules and regulations related to trade.

Encouraging standing public-private sector dialogue and/or cooperative arrangements between Customs authorities and stakeholders, and setting up Customs inquiry points through the use of web-sites, help-desks and other avenues to communicate with stakeholders on Customs services relating to trade.

Simplification, Practicability and Efficiency

Rules and procedures relating to trade should be simplified to ensure that they are no more burdensome or restrictive than necessary to achieve their legitimate objectives, as well as practicable and applied in an efficient manner.

Illustrative Examples :

Minimizing documentation and procedural requirement and providing one stop shopping services or coordinating centres.

Providing expeditious clearance for traders who have met the criteria specified by Customs, or implementing post audit clearance system.

With regard to the regulation of services sector, drawing from "best practice" case studies identified by APEC service-related fora.

With regard to border measures of assessing the conformance of commodities, following a published schedule, with a gradual reduction in frequency (and costs levied on importers/exporters) to match a continuing good compliance record.

Streamlining processing of business visas and procedures for temporary residence of business people to improve business mobility in the region.


Rules and procedures relating to trade should be applied in a manner that does not discriminate 1 between or among like products or services or economic entities in like circumstances.

Illustrative Example :

Charging foreign and domestic entities on an equal basis for trade facilitation services provided to them.

(1) The discrimination refers to inconsistency with either the National Treatment or the MFN principle.

Consistency and Predictability

Rules and procedures relating to trade should be applied in a consistent, predictable and uniform manner with integrity so as to minimize uncertainty to the trade and trade related parties. Rules and procedures relating to trade should provide clear and precise procedural guidance to the appropriate authorities with standard policies and operating procedures and be applied in a non-discretionary manner.

Illustrative Examples :

Issuing rulings to ensure consistent and predictable administrative decisions.

Promulgating "performance pledges" (e.g. a pledge by the licensing authority to the public on the targeted maximum processing time of a licence application) to ensure consistent and predictable service standards.

Setting up a central body, such as Classification Centre/Unit, so as to ensure consistent and uniform interpretation and applications of specific rules and procedures in an economy.

Developing and using Codes of Conduct on Integrity that focus on areas such as impartiality and avoidance of conflicts of interest, and developing a strategic plan on the promotion of integrity.

Drawing on various themes as outlined under the Arusha Declaration of the World Customs Organization in the management of operations and personnel, including recruitment, training, internal staff control and retention of staff.

Harmonization, Standardization and Recognition

While accepting the need of economies to regulate or set rules for legitimate objectives such as protection of health, safety or public morals and conservation of exhaustible natural resources, regulations, rules and procedures affecting the acceptance of goods and services between economies and markets should be harmonized as far as possible on the basis of international standards where appropriate. The development of mutual recognition arrangements for standards and conformity assessment results, and continuing cooperation on technical infrastructure development, are encouraged. These can help reduce administrative and compliance cost of business in obtaining access to international markets.

Illustrative Examples :

Implementing the Revised Kyoto Convention which aims at facilitating trade through, inter alia, harmonizing customs procedures.

Implementing a harmonized system of customs tariff classification, WTO valuation system and the ATA Carnet System.

Standardizing to the fullest extent possible data requirements for procedures relating to trade by building on the work of relevant international fora.

Participating in APEC and other regional projects concerning the mutual recognition of professional qualification and registration, such as the APEC Registers of Architects and Engineers.

Where rules and procedures differ between trading partners, two trading partners, by mutual agreement, could perform an assessment on the outcomes which each of the two systems is aiming to achieve. As a result, agreement can be reached that there is sufficient equivalence of outcome to accept that assurances from one partner are adequate to satisfy the other's needs, without the industry or authorities following every step laid down in the second partner's law.

Modernization and the Use of New Technology

Rules and procedures relating to trade should be kept under review, and updated if necessary, taking into account changed circumstances, including new information and new business practices, and based on the adoption, where appropriate, of modern techniques and new technology. Where new technology is used, relevant authorities should make best efforts to spread the accompanying benefits to all parties through ensuring the openness of the information on the adopted technologies and extending cooperation to authorities of other economies and the private sector in establishing interoperability and/or interconnectivity of the technologies.

Illustrative Examples :

Developing advanced risk management and systematic cargo-profiling techniques by customs authorities with a view to minimizing physical examination yet maintaining integrity of customs control.

Developing Customs systems which cater for the submission of pre-arrival cargo information and post clearance audit systems.

Maximizing the use of information technology, such as computerization, electronic data interchange (EDI) and internet technology, improving the delivery of trade-related administrative services, including the use of secure on-line technology to facilitate certification procedures, and providing an environment for paperless trading, for instance, that stipulated in the APEC Blueprint for Action on Electronic Commerce.

Organizing technical assistance projects and experience sharing sessions on modern techniques and new technologies used.

Due Process

Access to due process should be available to stakeholders in seeking redress with respect to the implementation of rules and procedures relating to trade, in accordance with the applicable legislation of member economies.

Illustrative Example :

Introducing clear appeal provisions in the legislation.


The progressive introduction of measures conducive to trade facilitation is best pursued by close cooperation among government authorities and business and trading communities. Transparent, efficient and simplified trade facilitation processes necessary to an open trade regime are furthered by close cooperation and marked by open channels of communication and the exchange of information between both governments and business. Aside from business and government partnerships, governments should also work in partnership to focus on opportunities for increased cooperation including : integrated technical assistance and capacity-building; exchanges of best practices critical to implementing trade facilitation initiatives and the coordination of positions concerning topics of common interest discussed in the framework of regional and international organizations.

Illustrative Examples :

Trade-related administrations to consult, engage and build cooperative partnerships with stakeholders in the international movement of commercial goods including customs brokers; express consignment industry; insurance providers; freight forwarders; shippers; warehouses etc.

Customs administrations or regional fora such as APEC (SCCP) to develop cooperative, capacity-building measures in custom-related areas such as, training; risk assessment; audit and verification frameworks; customs laboratories; and electronic exchanges of information.