II.C Service-level agreements and memorandums of understanding

II.C.1 Are there service-level agreements or memorandums of understanding governing paperless trade operations? If so, who are the parties and what is the legal authority for concluding these agreements?

A service-level agreement (SLA) is a contract between the provider and the user of a service that identifies the services covered by the contract and the minimum level of service expected under the contract. This is usually done by specifying performance standards, including the methods by which their achievement is measured. The SLA is legally binding, unlike a service level objective, which describes a goal in service delivery and may not bind the service provider.

In the paperless trade context, the term SLA may refer to a contract between the paperless trade system operator and its service providers (for e.g., a cloud computing service provider; a trust service provider). It may also refer to a contract between a paperless trade system operator, for e.g., the operator of a national single window that is a private entity, and a client public entity (for e.g., customs as the agency with coordinating responsibilities for the paperless trade system). The SLA is governed by contract law, including with respect to liability and its limitations. Like all contracts, the SLA is subject to laws of mandatory application, including any special regulation on paperless trade. As noted above, the SLA aims at specifying the expected quality of service by establishing performance benchmarks. It may also contain contingency plans and procedures.

The relationship between a public operator of a national single window (for e.g., customs) and other public entities participating in the paperless trade system (for e.g., Ministry of Agriculture) may be regulated under a MoU or other administrative law instrument, notably with respect to information exchange among government agencies.

The SLA is distinct from an “end-user agreement”, which is a contract between the paperless trade system operator and the users of the system (usually, private sector actors such as traders, freight forwarders, agents, banks, etc.) defining the terms and conditions of use of the system.  

Publication: Record, Richard; McLinden, Gerard; Siva, Ramesh. 2013. Lao PDR - Preparation of a national single window: a blueprint for implementation (English). Washington DC; World Bank contains a sample SLA between a private sector paperless trade system operator and a public entity (Annex D, Appendix A, referred to as “SLA for LNSW Operational Services”) as well as a sample end user agreement (Annex D, Appendix B, referred to as “SLA between LNSW Operator and Traders”).