II.C Service-level agreements and memorandums of understanding

A number of legal texts, such as service-level agreements, memorandums of understanding, end-user agreements and other contractual agreements, are relevant to the operation of a paperless trade system. These legal texts define the obligations of the participants in the paperless trade system. For instance, service-level agreements define the obligations of the service provider with respect to the availability of the system, response time, processing time and other technical requirements that are critical to define to ensure the availability and smooth operation of the system.

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 example, a cloud computing service provider; a trust service provider). It may also refer to a contract between a paperless trade system operator, for example, the operator of a national single window that is a private entity, and a client public entity (for example, 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 example, customs) and other public entities participating in the paperless trade system (for example, 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”).