International Organisations Formalise Trade Facilitation Partnership

Collaboration cements commitment to digitalising electronic phytosanitary processes

The Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation (the Alliance) and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) have formalised a relationship aimed at  transforming the cumbersome, paper-based phytosanitary certification procedures required for  international trade in plant and plant products.

The Alliance is supporting several developing and least developed countries (LDCs) in implementing the IPPC ePhyto Solution, replacing manual documentation with electronic phytosanitary certificates, or ePhytos, capable of exchange with a growing number of countries worldwide through the IPPC ePhyto Hub.

Both organisations signed a letter of intent on June 7 formalising the collaboration and laying the foundation to continue working together to expand the adoption of the ePhyto Solution. This powerful, targeted trade facilitation tool makes international commerce simpler, faster, and more cost-effective while simultaneously helping border controls strengthen plant protection regulations and consumer safety.

Phytosanitary certificates are official documents issued by governments to confirm that shipments of plants and plant products being traded internationally are free of pests and diseases and, therefore, safe to import.

The physical certificates transferred by post, courier or with a shipment can take days to obtain and are prone to errors, loss, theft, and counterfeiting. Moreover, if a port of entry is dissatisfied with the paperwork, it must be sent back to the place of issue to be rectified. Meanwhile, delays incur additional storage costs, missed deliveries, lost contracts, decaying produce, and food loss.

This lengthy transit process hinders and discourages trade, particularly for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) that form the economic backbone of developing countries and LDCs.

In contrast, the IPPC ePhyto Solution enables a seamless, end-to-end electronic exchange, eliminating most of the overheads and the delays incurred by the paper trail. Countries may produce ePhytos and access the Hub directly if they already have a national system for managing phytosanitary certificates or through a web-based application, the General ePhyto National System (GeNS).

True digitalisation requires far more than deployment of technology and in the case of the ePhyto Solution, there must be buy-in from governments and the business sector. The Alliance supports a public private partnership approach in all its projects to foster the collaboration necessary in implementing the new processes.

Throughout the project, the Alliance convenes meetings between the key stakeholders in the public and private sectors, encouraging dialogue and fostering trust. Through implementing partners working on the ground, it guides countries through the business process analysis, delivers training to public and private sector representatives, enhances awareness of the benefits of the system for traders, and provides technical expertise.

The IPPC ePhyto Solution is gathering pace, with 110 countries now registered on the Hub and 68 exchanging ePhytos. As of May 2022, more than two million ePhytos had been exchanged, with rapid growth over the past two years in particular.

“The IPPC ePhyto Solution has always been intended to facilitate safe trade in plants and plant products for all countries, and the collaboration between the IPPC Secretariat and the Global Alliance is making this a reality,” said Craig Fedchock, IPPC Director, IPPC ePhyto Solution. This partnership is a ‘perfect fit’ and a notable example for others to follow in building non-traditional partnerships to make the world a better place.”   

“The IPPC ePhyto Solution is a great example of the vital role digitalisation can have in trade reform efforts,” said Philippe Isler, the Alliance’s Director. We all know that digitalising administrative services saves time and cost for businesses, but the ephyto Hub goes further than that, by enabling the exchange of trade documents between the exporting and regulatory agencies. This is a game changer – one that is particularly critical for perishable food products at a time of supply chain uncertainty.”