customs

RCEP: Facilitating Trade for E-Commerce?

One area of particular importance for smaller firms engaged in e-commerce is dealing with problems at customs.  Many e-commerce companies are not shipping 40 foot containers but a few boxes or even just one package straight to consumers or to other companies.  Yet the paperwork and processing requirements to send one small box can be exactly the same a huge container.  Firms often face complicated and cumbersome paperwork requirements at the border.  Some markets charge high fees or inspect every single parcel, which causes expensive delays.  Sometimes these issues are so significant that companies simply stop trying to send goods overseas at all.  These problems are not unique to e-commerce shippers, of course, but if one important goal of RCEP is to facilitate trade for e-commerce, then a final agreement that does not address the real impediments to trade in smaller size, smaller value shipments at the borders will be a missed opportunity.  The benefits of a robust e-commerce chapter that does not simultaneously tackle customs issues could be lost or watered down.