In brief

In brief

  • Discover how governments can boost trade flows and drive economic growth through digital cross-border trade platforms.
  • Learn about the game-changing shift from single windows to platforms that provide access to an entire marketplace of cross-border trade services.
  • Find out the key success factors to implementing a trade platform—and how they can help move trade agendas forward.

The answer to new competition and new pressures

In addition to getting citizens the goods they want and need, businesses thrive when cross-border trade flows easily. And giving businesses easier access to a larger market is a crucial driver of economic growth.

However, the global trade landscape is changing, and countries that have traditionally enjoyed stable trade revenues are facing new pressures. Competition is increasing as central trade hubs shift; and as those shifts happen, customs and regulatory agencies quickly become bottlenecks in efficient supply chains as they’re unable to keep pace with change.

The result: traders change suppliers, seek new consumers and ultimately look for less costly places to conduct their cross-border business.

Feeling the effects of changing trade dynamics

Global trade hubs, and the governments they work with, are navigating an increasingly volatile global trade landscape—and losing traffic from cross-border trade to countries that are easier to do business with.


Global trade volumes were 1.1% lower in Nov. 2019 than 2018 due to trade tensions, restrictive policies and economic uncertainty, putting pressure on countries that rely on trade for growth to adapt.1


According to the Financial Times, Asia will contribute 60% of global growth by 2060, with the Asia-Pacific region accounting for 90% of the new members of the middle class entering the global economy.2


Cross-border trade now represents 20% of global eCommerce. As consumers shop more online, and become more comfortable shopping with overseas retailers, this will be a key driver of cross-border trade.3

3 factors that impact global trade

Research reveals three powerful factors that continue to shape the trade landscape:

Regional competition is increasing

New trade hubs are entering the market, competing fiercely based on infrastructure, ease of doing business and logistics services.

Supply chain complexities keep costs high

Data across the supply chain is fragmented, duplicated and exchanged in different standards and formats, resulting in higher costs and lower quality.

Delivery influences consumer decision-making

Consumers buy from sellers who can deliver quickly and predictably, which affects the partners traders turn to (including trading hubs).

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Growing market share in a volatile environment

Amidst this upheaval in the trade world, global trading hubs are increasingly pressured to secure market share of trade flows, and to make the ease of doing business and trading across its borders easier, less time consuming and cheaper.

These pressures are driving them to find new ways to attract and facilitate trade in order to boost their economy. For example, over the last decade, innovation has solidified Dubai’s status as a global trade hub. This helped achieve remarkable external trade growth in 2019, surging 6%, despite the first signs of a global economic downturn.4 Capitalizing on new innovations, alternate markets and trade paths will be essential to staying ahead of new regional competition, facilitating trade and protecting society.

That’s why the platform business model—used by some of the most successful and innovative companies in the world—could be the key to staying ahead of the curve.


The top 10 Fortune 500 companies are all platform companies, including Apple, Facebook and Google.


The platform economy is estimated to grow to $335 billion by 2025, a massive increase from just $15 billion in 2014.5


Platform businesses typically show 5 to 10% more growth than traditional businesses.6

Envisioning the cross-border trade platform

Platforms are the way forward for business—and when applied to the world of cross-border trade, the characteristics that contribute to their success can help trade hubs overcome current challenges while positioning them ahead of their competition.

Thriving through the sharing economy

Easy access to services like Uber Freight or “Airbnb for warehousing” would help all players adapt and scale to changing consumer demands faster.

Connecting all trade players

Bringing together all players in the trade ecosystem, and enabling data sharing amongst them, could move trade towards declaration-less compliance.

Reducing reliance on intermediaries

With direct access to services through the platform, traders become less reliant on intermediaries, helping to lower cost and complexity.

Learning from a wealth of data

Valuable insights from declaration and supply chain data can unlock new business opportunities without undermining privacy.

Scaling to drive economic growth

A trade platform has tremendous capacity for growth and adaptability, as platforms can rapidly scale to respond to an increase in demand.

Adapting to trade volatility

Constant change is the new normal for cross-border trade, and platforms are uniquely capable of responding to change quickly and effectively.

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Why aren’t single windows up to the task?

Traditionally, single windows that aggregate services from various government bodies provided the closest thing to a one-stop-shop for trade services.

However, single windows fell short in one crucial way: they were never designed for a whole ecosystem of services, instead limiting their focus to regulatory data submission and interaction with government agencies.

Since single windows can only come into play at a specific point in the overall process, they do not solve the issue of fragmented cross-border trade transactions that remain inefficient and costly.

Building a future-ready trading platform

Trade platforms aren’t built overnight. To start, trading hubs should ask themselves the following questions to start their journey to enabling a simple, effective way for traders to operate and comply with government regulations.

Define the why

What is the key driver for the platform? Are you clear on the value that a trade platform can bring for your agency and government?

Define the what

Do you know which services will benefit your traders the most and drive adoption? What new services could help differentiate this platform?

Define the how

How ready is your technology to support the services on a digital platform? What funding strategy and partnership model would be most successful?

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A catalyst for trade—and growth

A platform for trade can empower trading hubs to play an even bigger role in the global economy, paving the way for invisible borders and increasingly digital trade operations. By creating the true “one-stop-shop” for getting goods across the border, it will make trade easier and less costly for traders, help goods cost less for consumers, and make trading hubs, like Dubai, more desirable places to do business.

1Global trade growth is on its longest losing streak in a decade

2Britain could seal Asian trade deal by adopting a fresh attitude to palm oil

3 Cross border: The disruptive frontier

4Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade up 6% at Dhs1.37 trillion in ’19

5The Sharing Economy Is Still Growing, And Businesses Should Take Note

6 Five Ways to Win with Digital Platforms

Katie Wong

Principal Director – Accenture Border Services​

Jorien Kerstens

Senior Manager – Consulting, Public Service, Border Services

Rami Yazbek

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy


Cross border: The disruptive frontier
New commercial models at the border

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