Impact of Nontariff Measures and Border Crossing Time and Costs: The Case of Perishable Goods Trade in the CAREC Region

Geographical Proximity and Trade Impacts in the CAREC Region

Impact of High Trade Costs and Uncertain Time to Trade on Exports from Five Central Asian Countries

Trade Facilitation, Infrastructure, and International Trade in Central Asian Countries

Industrial Upgrading in the PRC—What are the Lessons?

Loren Brandt, Noranda Chair Professor of International Trade and Economics, Department of Economics, University of Toronto, will share the lessons learned from the first three decades of industrial development and reform in the PRC.

Register the seminar on Zoom


The Digital Commerce for Agricultural Development Forum was organized jointly by the PRC’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), the People’s Government of Beijing Municipality, and ADB, with support from the CAREC Program and RKSI. It was part of a series of events held at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS), 31 August-5 September 2022. We interviewed two PRC experts to share their e-commerce experience in the premade meal and traditional costume industries, respectively.

Related event: Digital Commerce for Agricultural Development Forum. 

Four Ways to Boost e-Commerce in Central Asia

Boosting e-commerce can create livelihood opportunities for women, young people, and other underrepresented groups in Central Asia, according to a recent study by ADB and the CAREC Institute.

A joint study by ADB and the CAREC Institute found that much still needs to be done to boost e-commerce in Central Asia, where many countries lack the systems needed for a robust e-commerce ecosystem.

Improving internet infrastructure, enhancing cybersecurity, and increasing digital and financial literacy are some key recommended actions.

Regional cooperation can help to create a robust e-commerce economy, drive economic growth, create jobs for underrepresented groups, and ensure continuity of services even amid disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic.

When COVID-19 lockdowns forced people to stay indoors, many turned to online shopping to have their necessities conveniently delivered to their homes. But not everybody had the means to do so — certainly not in Central Asia, where around half the population lack internet access and many countries don’t have the systems needed for a robust e-commerce ecosystem.

A joint study by the Asian Development Bank and the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Institute showed that in 2019, less than 10% of the population in Azerbaijan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan shopped online.

What is CAREC?

The CAREC Program is a partnership for countries in Central Asia and beyond to promote sustainable development through regional cooperation. Last year, ministers from CAREC’s member countries endorsed the CAREC Digital Strategy 2030 that identifies areas where they can collaborate to enhance digitalization across the region.

More people were shopping online in Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan, but they were still way below the 63% average for the European Union and the 30% average for countries with more similar socioeconomic profiles like Turkey. The People’s Republic of China was the only CAREC member country that had high figures.

Online Shoppers in CAREC, 2019

CountryShop Online
(% of population)
Shop Online
(% of internet users)
China, People’s Republic of6279
Kyrgyz Republic68

Note: Only four CAREC countries have official statistics on the proportion of people that shop online (the PRC, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan). All CAREC countries were surveyed on the proportion of online shopping in the 2017 Findex survey by the World Bank. The ratio of online shoppers to internet users in 2017 has been applied to 2019 internet users for the seven CAREC countries without up-to-date data.
Sources: Authors’ estimates based on national statistics, World Bank Global Findex Database

More people in some Central Asian countries shopped online during the COVID-19 pandemic, but much remains to be done for e-commerce to reach its full potential in the region.

E-commerce, of course, goes beyond individuals clicking “add to cart” in an online store. It includes business-to-business transactions, like between a wholesaler and a retailer; business-to-government transactions, such as in e-procurement; and consumer-to-consumer deals within online communities.

Done right, e-commerce can facilitate trade across borders to drive economic growth, create employment and livelihood opportunities for women and people with disabilities among other underrepresented groups, and ensure continuity of services even amid unexpected disruptions like the pandemic. It also contributes to financial inclusion by encouraging the use of debit cards and/or mobile banking to ease payment.

Regional cooperation can help e-commerce thrive in Central Asia and improve the lives of ordinary people. Here are four ways CAREC countries can make this happen:

1. Improve internet infrastructure to expand access and lower costs

While broadband wireless technology infrastructure in most CAREC countries is fairly developed, some rural and remote areas remain uncovered. This could be addressed through stronger competition or the cooperative sharing of infrastructure by existing operators.

The cost of accessing the internet can be kept affordable by establishing or strengthening internet exchange points (IXPs), facilities where internet service providers, content providers, and others come together to exchange their data traffic. IXPs reduce costs by keeping domestically destined traffic within the country and can help save on international data transit costs. Having more data centers and access to local cloud computing will also boost the ability of businesses and entrepreneurs outside the PRC, where e-commerce is already thriving, to host e-commerce sites domestically.

2. Enhance cybersecurity and increase digital and financial literacy

Consumers need to be confident that their information will be safe when they buy online, and that there are safety nets if they encounter problems. CAREC countries—most of which rank low in the various measures of cybersecurity—need to ensure the use of encrypted servers, require companies to acquire international security certifications, and create security incident response teams.

Increasing consumer trust in financial institutions and mobile payment systems is also important. This can be done through consumer protection regulations, financial and digital literacy training, and raising awareness of the convenience and functionality of mobile payments.

3. Upgrade payments systems to make online transactions easier

Electronic payment systems in the CAREC region have improved, but some countries should be upgraded to increase their capacity to handle all types of transactions, including bank transfers, in real time. Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, for example, also need to simplify the processes that enable merchants to accept online payments. Wider access to smartphones, which are used for mobile banking apps, digital wallets, and QR codes, could be enabled by reducing or eliminating duties on smartphone imports.

CAREC countries can also look at the feasibility of creating a regional payment card or adopting mutual recognition of their local payment cards to widen access to online shops and spur e-commerce growth across the region.

4. Make delivery services more reliable and less expensive

Consumers need to be certain they will receive their online orders on time. While basic coverage by postal services is high in many CAREC countries, some still face challenges. Delivery options need to be expanded almost everywhere to meet the demands of online consumers, who must be able to track and trace their purchases and redirect deliveries from home addresses to optional pickup points such as parcel lockers if needed. Facilities that provide integrated storage and delivery as a service should be developed because these were found lacking in most CAREC countries. Making this kind of service available will encourage more merchants to get into e-commerce.

Automating trade documentation, including adopting single-window systems, can cut the time products spend in customs and reduce costs. Adopting a de minimis, possibly a uniform rate for CAREC countries, will also allow products under a certain value to be imported duty free. All these steps will further encourage international trade.

CAREC countries can prosper together from e-commerce if governments, with support from the private sector and development partners, collaborate to forge the best strategies and effectively implement them.

This article is reproduced from Asian Development Bank.

E-Commerce in CAREC Countries: Infrastructure Development

Knowledge Sharing Series: Chinese Best Practice in Cross-Border E-Commerce

The CAREC Institute, in collaboration with the China Association of Trade in Services (CATIS), national partner from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and RKSI is organizing a multi-session training series on cross-border e-commerce for national technical vocational educational and training (TVET) institutions of CAREC countries and others interested from 5 March 2022 to 2 July 2022, every Saturday, 3-6 pm, Beijing time.

As a fast-growing digitally enabled business model for trade, cross-border e-commerce has been leading the transformation of global trade in recent years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it became one of the driving forces for the development of global trade. Among others, the PRC has been making significant progress in cross-border e-commerce and accumulating valuable experience and knowledge which will be shared with all CAREC countries during this series.

To strengthen demand-driven knowledge sharing programs among CAREC countries on a systemic basis, the CAREC Institute, CATIS and RKSI invite e-commerce professionals of worldwide tier-one Internet enterprises and e-commerce platforms to join the program.

A full range of training services including talent training, certified assessment, and further innovation incubation services will be provided. English and Russian simultaneous interpretation will be available throughout the sessions. Contact for additional queries.

Register here to participate.

Global Cross-border E-commerce Training Curriculum


10:00 – 10:20Opening Ceremony

Moderator: Ms. Li Linyi, Deputy Director of International Exchange Division, International Poverty Reduction Center in China (IPRCC).

Welcome Remarks:
Ms. Li Xin, Deputy Director-General of IPRCC.
10:20 – 12:00Country Presentation I

Moderator: Ms. Li Linyi, Deputy Director of International Exchange Division of IPRCC.

Commentator: Dr. Zhang Chuanhong, Associate Professor of China Agricultural University.

Speakers (20 minutes each):

1. Diversification of Income for Poor Farmers.
Mr. Horn Kimhong, Program Coordinator, Dan Church Aid, Cambodia.

2. PRC Aided Pilot Project of Poverty Reduction Cooperation in Myanmar.
Mr. Win Kyaw Myo, Director, Department of Rural Development, Ministry of Cooperatives and Rural Development, Myanmar.

3. Mr. Htun Htun Oo, Second Secretary, Embassy of Myanmar.

4. Exploration and Experience: Rural Revitalization in the PRC.
Dr. Xu Jin, Associate Professor, China Agricultural University.

12:00 – 14:30 Break
14:30 – 16:00Country Presentation II

Moderator: Ms. Maha Ahmed, Deputy Country Director, World Food Programme.

Speakers (20 minutes each):

1. Singapore’s Approach to Social Assistance and Community Development.
Ms. Lau Amanda, Manager, Ministry of Social and Family Development, Singapore.

2. Tourist Attraction/Learning Community, Baan Nam Sap Learning Center.
Mrs. Suttapak Panpapai, Foreign Relations Officer, Professional Level, ASEAN Unit, Office of Permanent Secretariat, Ministry of Interior, Thailand.

3. D-Hope Project Thailand.
Mrs. Nicha Premchan, Foreign Relation Officer, Professional Level, Department of Community Development, Thailand.

4. Case Introduction and Video Presentation of Hesilu Village in Zhejiang Province.
Mr. He Yunhui, Party Secretary of Hesilu Village, Zhejiang Province, the PRC.
16:00 – 16:20 Closing Ceremony

Closing Remarks:
Mr. Miguel Musngi, Senior Officer, Poverty Eradication and Gender Division of the ASEAN Secretariat.

Developing the Services Sector for Economic Diversification in CAREC Countries

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