On 21 February, the European Commission organised a conference “Build, Connect, Grow: Make Business in the Digital Single Market”. The event showcased the Commission–led Large Scale Pilots that develop and put to use tools and solutions (“building blocks”) to enable digital cross-border interactions primarily between business/citizens and government. Hanne Melin, of eBay’s Policy Lab, participated with the intention of lifting the idea of applying the “building blocks” to areas of concern for small exporting businesses.
Research commissioned by eBay and carried out by a team of Geneva-based economists shows how the Internet and technology tools significantly lower trade costs by reducing information friction. The research also confirms that sellers of all sizes do take advantage of the lowered trade costs by exporting to multiple foreign markets. The opportunity for in particular SME traders is huge: exporting has traditionally been the privilege of large corporations but technology is now providing also small traders an opportunity for growth.
However, as small traders enter the world stage it becomes clear that today’s trade policies and procedures were not designed with them in mind. A 2013 report published by the World Economic Forum identifies today’s supply chain trade barriers and concludes that SMEs are particularly impeded by them. Key barriers relate to customs: delays in customs clearance, administrative compliance burdens, and lack of standardization between countries.
The EU is currently modernizing its customs system and rules. At the heart is the shift towards IT systems for customs clearance and procedures in order to facilitate economic operators’ relations with customs and ensure safe and secure trade. However, very few new customs IT systems have been introduced by Member States due primarily to the significant investments needed.
With the presence of eBay's Policy Lab at this conference, we wanted to lift the idea that a Large Scale Pilot could be the way to bring innovative solutions in the area of customs faster to the market. Based on the eGovernment “building blocks”, can we uncover the innovative solutions and services that will ensure timely information and simplified procedures adapted to the profile and needs of small businesses?