Dodwell in SOM3 Medan - Post 8

July 03, 2013

Gala dinner from Mayor of Medan - in a huge tent in a heavy thunderstorm.

There was cause for celebration today for the team that has slogged patiently over the past four months to win APEC officials' backing for ABAC’s proposals for wider adoption of Global Data Standards. Our proposals have at last won broad endorsement.

We are now tasked to work with APEC officials to build a programme of voluntary capacity-building, drawing on the many economy-level examples and experiences. This will be focused on the many identified chokepoints along the supply chain, and will form a foundation stone for cutting costs along the supply chain. APEC officials are tasked to cut 10% out of supply chain costs by 2015.

ABAC has worked largely with GS1 - the not-for-profit organization that economy by economy around the world oversees the management of bar codes and global product identification to facilitate tracking, traceability, trade security - to persuade APEC Senior officials that we needed to pursue closer regional collaboration on data standards. We encountered some reservations when we first tabled the proposals in SOM2 in Surabaya in April, and the time since then has been focused on addressing the concerns raised by officials: why are we collaborating with GS1? What evidence of collaboration with the World Customs Organisation? How could priority attention be given to the key supply chain chokepoints? And, in particular for the US, how the initiative could synchronise with their concern for a “systematic approach”? (Still now, after four months of discussion, I really don’t have the foggiest what a “systematic approach” implies, but let’s leave this on one side for now).

With great credit to GS1, and their unflagging efforts in briefing and explanation, all concerns have  been addressed. Around the CTI table, strong support came from New Zealand (“we have no time to waste”), China (extremely important given their chairmanship of APEC next year), Hong Kong, Australia, Canada and – with some huffing and puffing – the US. Japan, which had thrown numerous bricks in the road in Surabaya, stopped short of resounding support, but at least threw down no bricks. The CTI meeting was a culmination of two weeks of briefings to five other APEC Working Groups meeting in Medan for the SOM cluster. The effort involved getting top-level WCO officials to come to the table with us to endorse the merits of ABAC’s proposals.

Hong Kong China, which chairs the CTI group responsible for orchestrating efforts to eliminate choke points, has agreed to coordinate efforts to build capacity to use global data standards to reduce the impact of chokepoints. Specific responsibility will rest with the different governments that are charged to tackle individual chokepoints.

It is satisfying finally to win endorsement. It is also satisfying to realize that in the course of four months of intensive briefing, our officials now know a great deal more about the importance and ubiquity of global data standards – the “Intel” inside the global trading system, as it were  – than they did at the beginning of 2013.

I believe this will be one of ABAC’s key achievements this year, and will play an important part in getting supply chain costs cut by the 10% required by 2015. And if officials know nothing about GS1 in January, that cannot possibly be true today.

I fly out of Medan now to get to the ABAC3 meeting in Kyoto in Japan, which starts on Monday. But the Medan meetings continue to the weekend, and the blogs will continue to flow through the weekend as I catch up with issues and initiatives that have so far gone unrecorded.

A day for celebration.



⇒  More blog posts from the SOM3 Medan meetings series.

⇒  Dodwell's other meetings blogs.


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