The ASYCUDAWorld product is the latest result of a process that began when UNCTAD identified the first signs of the commercial potential of the World Wide Web. UNCTAD’s Trade Efficiency Summit (Columbus, Ohio, 1994) looked at how to reduce transaction costs by applying information technologies to every link of the trade transaction chain. At the time, the potential annual cost savings were estimated at up to $100 billion.

The $100 billion target remains elusive, but an initiative launched by the G-7 was based on the belief that it was nonetheless achievable, as long as customs data requirements can be harmonized and simplified. That objective is now being pursued by the Brussels-based World Customs Organization, which is developing a global, harmonized standard data set that uses uniform electronic messages. The WCO Customs Data Model, as it is called, is likely to have a major impact on the processing of business-to-business, business-to-government and government-to-government transactions.

These developments, combined with the fact that 85 countries around the world are already using the same customs IT system, ASYCUDA, represent a formidable opportunity for using the Internet to make international trade simpler and cheaper whilst also making international markets more accessible to enterprises from developing countries.

ASYCUDAWorld builds upon the successful experiences of ASYCUDA++, which was designed to function in difficult telecommunications environments, but also to operate through GSM networks that are already widespread in developing countries. Being web-based, the ASYCUDAWorld system will allow Customs Administrations and traders to handle most of their transactions – from Customs Declarations to Cargo Manifests and Transit documents – via Internet.

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