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  May 5th, 2018 | Written by

UNCTAD Assessments Help Three More Countries Get E-Trade Ready

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  • Least developed countries call on UNCTAD to make the most of e-commerce.
  • UNCTAD carried out Rapid e-Trade Readiness Assessment for Laos, Myanmar, and Liberia.
  • UNCTAD assessments for each country analyzed several factors important for developing ecommerce.

The governments of the Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic, Myanmar, and Liberia—among the world’s least developed—are looking to new horizons and ecommerce to boost trade and create jobs.

Each country asked UNCTAD to carry out a Rapid e-Trade Readiness Assessment to guide them in building the right ecommerce ecosystems and provide their policymakers with a blueprint for harnessing the economic and developmental potential offered by online trade.

The reports were showcased on the first day of Ecommerce Week in mid-April. The event was an opportunity for ministers, donors, investors and representatives of development banks and international organizations to survey the ecommerce landscape for other developing countries.

The UNCTAD assessments for each country analyzed ecommerce assessments and strategy formulation; information and communications technology infrastructure and services; trade logistics and facilitation; access to financing; payment solutions; legal and regulatory frameworks; and skills for ecommerce.

“Each assessment, and this is the beauty of the exercise, includes a list of concrete recommendations for governments,” said UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Isabelle Durant. “We know that digitalization offers great opportunities for development.”

Wilson Tarpeh, Myanmar’s deputy commerce minister highlighted the importance of this assessment for Liberia, the first of its kind that  UNCTAD has carried out in Africa. “When shaping the right framework for ecommerce in Liberia, at stake lies not only our innovation capacity, but also the need to repair the broken linkages between our local industries and across our country,” said Tarpeh. “Ecommerce is as much about widening our frontiers as creating much needed jobs, particularly for our youths and women-led small and medium-sized enterprises.”

Policy-level attention to e-commerce is increasing in all three countries, but for different reasons. A focus on trade and private sector development in Liberia—driven by its recent accession to the World Trade Organization—has also sparked interest towards ecommerce.

Myanmar’s recent reintegration into the global trade system, its membership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the liberalization of key sectors including telecommunications have presented significant opportunities for the formerly isolated country.

In Laos, interest in ecommerce has been triggered by a drive towards services-led growth, along with the country’s integration into ASEAN and the negotiations on a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (a free trade agreement between the 10 ASEAN states and the six states with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements).

With its latest assessments of these two Southeast Asian countries, UNCTAD has now covered e-trade readiness of all three least developed countries in ASEAN (the other is Cambodia) and provided a major boost to these countries’ implementation of the ASEAN’s 2017-2025 Work Program on Ecommerce.

Sweden funded the assessments for Laos and Myanmar, while the Liberia assessment was funded by the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), a multilateral partnership.