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Enhancing Public Availability of Customs Information

In the Islamic Countries



Anderson and Van Wincoop


show that “trade costs”, as economists commonly use the term,

encompass the full range of factors, both natural and human in origin, that drive a wedge

between the producer price in the exporting country, and the consumer price in the importing

country. Analysts are familiar with many of these factors, like geographical distance, tariff

barriers, non-tariff measures, and so forth. But the issue of transparency in trade policy—which

combines policy predictability and simplification--is less studied, in part due to the difficulty of

assembling reliable and informative data. Nonetheless, Helble et al. use a gravity model of trade

to estimate that improving trade-related transparency could increase trade in the Asia-Pacific

by around 7.5% over baseline.


This number is clearly significant from an economic point of

view, but the aggregate nature of the analysis leaves open the question as to what sort of policy

measures a government could in fact implement in order to realize those gains. Similarly,

Lejarraga and Shepherd


show that transparency provisions in regional trade agreements

(RTAs) are associated with higher trade between the parties, around 15% over baseline in the

typical case. The topic of this report, information availability, is clearly related to transparency:

it cannot be said that trade processes are transparent if the rules governing them are not freely

available for consultation, for example. More broadly, improving information availability is one

way among many to improve the transparency of the trading environment, with a view to

realizing the gains described previously.

Given the many and varied nature of trade costs, it is important to have a conceptual framework

for understanding them

. Figure 1 p

resents one such approach, focusing on where the trade costs

occur in terms of a cross-border value chain. The most obvious sources of trade costs occur

“between the borders”, for instance international freight and insurance charges, as well as trade

finance. These trade costs are inherent in the nature of the transaction as having an international

dimension. Also well known are trade costs that occur at the border of the importing country,

such as the imposition of tariffs and some kinds of non-tariff measures NTMs. Following

publication of the Doing Business “Trading Across Borders” data, attention has also focused on

the time cost of delays at the border. For present purposes, however, a little studied

accompaniment to these sources of trade costs is the idea of information costs. That is, for a firm

in an exporting country, it is costly to obtain information on required rules and formalities in

the importing country, which means there is a risk of shipments being rejected or delayed due

to errors in documentation or certifications. These trade costs are the focus of this report:

historically, it has been necessary to consult paper form regulations, or engage the services of

specialized brokers who can take care of local paperwork requirements. But the movement

towards placing more information in the public domain, including online, is reducing the

incidence of these costs. The purpose of this report is to highlight successful ways in which

countries in the OIC and outside it have confronted the issue of information-related trade costs,

and worked to reduce them by putting Customs and trade-related information in the public


Given that information is the central focus of this report, it is appropriate to define terms inmore

details. Customs information refers to rules and regulations, including duty rates, that govern


Anderson, J., and E. van Wincoop. 2004. “Trade Costs.”

Journal of Economic Literature

, 42(3): 691-751.


Helble, M., B. Shepherd, and J. Wilson. 2009. “Transparency and Regional Integration in the Asia-Pacific.”


World Economy

, 32(3): 479-508.


Lejarraga, I., and B. Shepherd. 2013. “Quantitative Evidence on Transparency in Regional Trade Agreements.”

Trade Policy Paper No. 153, OECD.