The Single Window System is a complex government implementation of a computer system to facilitate international trade by enabling submission of regulatory documents to a single entity or a single location. It can also be defined as “A facility that allows the stakeholders in international transport and trade to submit homogenous official papers and information to a single point of entry, which then fulfils all transit, export, and import related requirements”. If the documents are submitted online, most of the time you will have to submit the documentation only once. Common documentation usually includes commercial invoices, certificates of origin, export/import trade declarations and customs manifest declarations.

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Characteristics of the Single Window

The Ideal Concept of A National Single Window

The idealized concept of the Single Window System is the idea of a facility or portal where international traders can submit their information to government authorities and Participating Government Agencies (PGA’s) for fulfilling regulatory requirements. Ideally one would need to submit their data and documentation only once. The ideal design and conception would also require that a single portal or entity is set up as the National Single Window. As such, the Single Window would in this instance have to be a single access point.

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Single Windows that Co-exist in National Economies

Most conventional Single Windows serve only a specific component of the transit, export or import processes. As such, many countries and economies have several Single Windows that coexist and serve different regulatory functions. Many economies thus have Single Windows that cover the functional aspects of a specific regulatory agency. For instance, you may have a Logistics Single Window, a Port Community System or a Customs Single Window. They can also be named from the perspective of the user. For instance, you could have a Customs Single Window for exporters or importers such as the CBSA SWI (Single Window Initiative).

Despite there being so many Single Windows in many national economies it is always critical for the regulatory agency to ensure that participants communicate through a Single Window categorized according to the operational role such the ePhyto Hub administered by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

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Existence of Other Collaborative Platforms

There are many other platforms particularly in the G2G and B2B data exchange space, though these do not fit the ideal notion of a Single Window. Most of these collaborative platforms include one-stop load matching platforms, Trade Information Portals, and Cargo or Port Community Systems among others.

Regional and National Single Windows

A National Single Window typically refers to instances in which the services only involve domestic authorities and procedures in a country. The exchange of data typically happens inside the national borders of a country.

A Regional Single Window can either refer to a Regional Single Window that replaces a National Single Window, or the interchange of documents among National Single Systems that deliver functionalities that help comply with regulatory processes.

The first regional economic community to come up with a Regional Single Window Project was the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Others such as the Eurasian Economic Community Single Window Initiative and the EU Maritime Single Window soon followed.

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Benefits of a Single Window System

The main benefit for economies and nation states is that it enhances international trade. Trade facilitation is often through traders saving time and money when dealing with government and regulatory authorities. This results in increased efficiencies that consequently lead to more trade. Before the advent of the Single Window System, traders had to visit and deal with multiple regulatory authorities (that were often found in multiple locations) seeking clearances and permits for their export and import processes.

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The CBSA Single Window Initiative (SWI)

The initiative is led by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The initiative is aimed at enhancing and streamlining the sharing of commercial import data between the import community and the Government of Canada. The initiative provides a balance between the needs of the competitive international business environment and those of the government and agencies that regulate trade. While the CBSA takes the lead in the initiative, it collaborates with Other Government Agencies (OGA’s) and departments that control and regulate 38 government programs.

The Single Window replaces and or complements the ACROSS (Accelerated Commercial Release Operations Support System).  Currently, the ACROSS system can be used for non-OGA releases but OGA releases must use the new CBSA SWI system

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Benefits of the CBSA Single Window Initiative

  • Simplified and more streamlined and efficient import processes

  • Reduced paper burden as documents are standardized and only need to be submitted once

  • Decreased cost of doing business as border crossings become more efficient through quicker validation and inspection

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The Customs & Border Protection (CBP) –Single Window Initiative ACE (Automated Commercial Environment)

The United States set up the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) as the body that oversees the implementation of the single window system for international trade. ACE is a program under the US Customs & Border Protection system that is intended to promote border security while facilitating international trade. ACE offers a centralized Single Window where you can connect with CBP and other Partner Government Agencies (PGA). The portal is known as the ACE Secure Data Portal. The ACE system is designed to dramatically reduce operational cost, paper usage, eliminate redundancy and facilitate efficient and faster processing of exports and imports. It will also improve the sharing, collection, and processing of the information submitted to government agencies and the CBP.

Benefits of the CBP ACE Single Window

  • Faster Processing – ACE is built on a modern platform which makes it faster. It is up to 68 times faster in the processing of continuous and single bonds and reduces the wait times at processing ports by up to 33 per cent.

  • Paper Reduction – Working with 47 partner agencies, paper forms have been standardized, automated and streamlined making it easy to increase predictability in transit, enhance transparency and enhance compliance with US regulations and laws.

  • Reduced Costs – ACE cuts costs through digitization of manual processes and reduction of waiting times at ports of entry. As it stands, up to 1.5 million dollars are saved annually through digital submission of export licenses.

  • Access to Information – Partner Government Agencies get access to information from electronic manifests, and cargo release documents from one source making it easier to determine the risk of cargo entering into the country.

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