Single Window for Trade

The most commonly accepted definition of a SW is the one provided by UNECE Recommendation No. 33. It describes the SW as "a facility that allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardized information and documents with a single entry point to fulfill all import, export, and transit-related regulatory requirements." “If information is electronic, then individual data elements should only be submitted once”.
Independently from its description as a platform, environment, or facility, a SW can best be understood by the service that it aims to provide to traders and government authorities alike. Such service is that it facilitates the exchange of trade relevant information between traders and government agencies, and amongst government agencies, for obtaining permits and licences, certificates and necessary approvals. It does so by allowing traders, or their agents, to submit trade documents and data, in electronic or paper form, through a single entry point.

Source: UNECE –UN/CEFACT (UNECE Recommendation 33)


The most advanced Single Window systems also connect private sector actors such as commercial banks, customs brokers and freight forwarders. An example is the Mozambican SW, launched in 2011.

Source: TFIG Case Stories - Mozambique

Relevance for trade facilitation

A SW for trade can be an important facilitation tool. If implemented effectively, it can simplify procedures and formalities for document submission and data collection and can save precious time and money. The following are the main benefits that key stakeholders of a SW project can achieve:

  • Government: increase in government revenue, enhanced compliance with rules, improved efficiency in resource allocation, better trade statistics,
  • Traders: faster clearance times, a more transparent and predictable process and less bureaucracy,
  • Customs: improved staff productivity through the upgraded infrastructure, increase in customs revenue, a more structured and controlled working environment, and enhanced professionalism,
  • Economy as a whole: improved transparency and governance and reduced corruption, due to fewer opportunities for physical interaction.

The Korea customs service estimates that the introduction of its SW brought some 18 million USD in benefits in 2010, part of the overall economic benefit that year of up to 3.47 billion USD from the agency trade facilitation efforts. In Singapore, the national Single Window for trade called TradeNet, brings together more than 35 border agencies since 1989 and leads to big gains in government productivity. Singapore customs claims that for every 1 USD earned in customs, it spends 1 cent – a profit margin of 9,900%*.

(*) World Bank, "Trading Across Borders", in Doing Business report 2012 (World Bank 2012). Available from
http://www.doingbusiness.org/reports/global-reports/~/media/FPDKM/Doing%20Business/Documents/Annual-Reports/English/DB12-Chapters/Trading-Across-Borders.pdf. Accessed May 2012
(*) (UNNeXT 2012).