Skip to main content

“Public-private partnerships […] – a unique tool in the trade arena”

An interview with a partner of the German Alliance

The German Alliance for Trade Facilitation builds on the strengths of public and private partners worldwide to make cross-border trade faster and simpler. The engagement of the German Alliance is based on the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and regional trade agreements, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Together with international and local partners, the German Alliance is currently implementing about 20 projects in Africa, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

One of the German Alliance’s partners is the Deutsche Post DHL Group (DPDHL). In an interview with Ms Wing Xiaoying Huo, who works as Senior Director in the GoTrade/Trade Facilitation Department of DPDHL, we talked among others about the relevance of public-private partnerships. With her academic background in environmental management and public policies and her professional career within the private sector, she brings in new perspectives and hands-on experiences into development cooperation.

Ms Huo, how can public-private partnerships contribute to trade facilitation?

From a DPDHL standpoint, public-private partnerships are a unique tool in the trade area. Our day-to-day activity is facilitating global trade, it’s the core part of our business. We work with customs daily and are active participants in the related processes. The partnership with the public sector, such as the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), gives us the opportunity to do more – to support the economy and inclusive growth in partner countries. At the same time, I see the relevance of engaging with the private sector in such a partnership. We experienced in conversations with the public sector that they appreciate the exchange on practical know-how and consider it when designing and implementing improved trade processes. So, I think we are fortunate to filling that ‘gap’.

What can DPDHL provide in these partnerships?

Back in 2020, DPDHL founded the global program GoTrade, which focuses on sustainable, inclusive trade and economic growth. The program combines two unique approaches.

Firstly, we have a lot of experience in cross-border trade and in cooperation with border agencies. Worldwide we see different border processes and work within different border regulations. We know how they work, what works well, and what doesn’t work well. Making use of this expertise and international best practices to support border agencies in improving border processes is one important pillar of our work in the GoTrade program.

Secondly, we train SMEs on how to capitalise on e-commerce. SME capacity building is not an item of the WTO TFA agreement per se. But it is relevant if you aim to facilitate trade for everyone and want to support inclusive economic growth. It is very important to help especially smaller businesses to export and to navigate the complex landscape of international trade and e-commerce.

Additionally, we bring awareness to our management, our country managers, operational managers, and e-commerce managers at DHL, so that they can promote the program and its potential in their country and communities. Currently, together with GIZ and other public partners, we have over 30 projects that are active in different parts of the world in all regions – well, except Antarctica.

How do such projects look like? Could you give us an example?

For us in DPDHL this kind of engagement started with a project of the German Alliance in Montenegro. It was about TFA Article 7.1 and 7.4; namely implementing a pre-arrival processing and risk management system for express shipments. The German Alliance initiated this project through their existing relationship with the public sector in Montenegro. We as DHL could bring in our experience in trade and contribute to the project in highlighting the challenges from the private sector perspective and make recommendations based on our trading experience with other countries. The project was a huge success, it gave birth to the DHL GoTrade program and was later rolled out in other countries.

What were the main successes of the joint project in Montenegro?

On the one hand, the public sector benefited from a huge efficiency gain, bigger trust among the communities of import, provision of lessons learned and best practices through the successful implementation. On the other hand, the project goals were closely related to the DHL day to day activities, and the project results has seen beneficial improvement to our operation, which showcases the potential impact to other businesses in Montenegro once the broader rollout of the project[1].

Can you describe a winning formula for public-private partnerships?

The nature of partnerships is similar anywhere: It is all about building trust, understanding each other’s objectives, forming common goals, agreeing on how we work, making our own organizations understand how the other partners work – so that we can complement each other’s strengths and make things happen.

How will public-private partnerships in the field of trade facilitation further develop in the future?

There are many opportunities for more public-private partnerships in the trade facilitation area. I believe that they should not only be pursued by the public sector but also by the private sector. Public-private partnerships are crucial to realising the intended success in the field of trade facilitation, especially as we are adopting a new way of working, enabled by digital tools and common trust.

Moreover, there is a trend towards multi-party relations in trade facilitation. It means public sector engagement with not only one private partner, but engagement with multiple private sector partners. This unique working concept enables different private sector partners to bring their strengths into the trade facilitation process. As DHL working in the trade facilitation landscape, we look forward to work with other private partners as well.

[1] One major success of the project was that the clearance time of express shipments within one hour after arrival was reduced significantly. The most shared and mentioned benefit of the project was building up and maintaining a trustful cooperation and efficient data exchange between Serbian Customs and express couriers (link to project description).