The pandemic severely impacted trade in South Asia. It disrupted transport, core services that support trade (like customs and border controls), and business travel across the region, essentially bringing cross-border supply chains and economic activity to a stand-still.

As national lockdowns begin to ease and supply chains resume operation, difficulties in cargo movement and clearance processes are expected to linger.

A look at the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka – shows the importance to recovery of effective and modern trade facilitation measures.

Trade facilitation, defined as measures that promote and ease trade, was already underway in the SASEC countries when the pandemic started.

This included helping countries modernise legislative frameworks in line with international standards; introducing automation, single window systems and risk management programmes; and enabling efficient movement of cargo in transit to land-locked regions.

A version of this article appears in the print on July 27 2021, of The Himalayan Times.