Customs and trade facilitation in ASEAN
EUROPE BEAT - Henry J. Schumacher (The Freeman) - January 13, 2017 - 12:00am

The Customs and Transit Advocacy Group of the EU-ASEAN Business Council (EU-ABC), of which the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) is a board member, is advocating customs and trade facilitation in ASEAN with a view to assisting ASEAN and its Member States in achieving some of the key aims and objectives set out in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2025, i.e. “to facilitate the seamless movement of goods…” and the commitment that “ASEAN will continue to reduce or eliminate border and behind-the-border regulatory barriers that impede trade, so as to achieve competitive, efficient and seamless movements of goods within the region. ”

The advocacy focuses mainly on customs procedures and trade facilitation practices across the ASEAN. These are seen by many companies across the region, not just the members of the EU-ABC, as being overly complex, burdensome, and sometimes inconsistent in terms of application.

Numerous studies have clearly indicated the economic and trade benefits of reducing and simplifying such procedures and practices. Doing so boosts trade, and provides exponential assistance to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who are often less well-placed to understand and navigate customs rules when exporting. This supports the endeavours of the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to support SMEs and guide them into international markets.

To its credit, ASEAN has recognized the need to move on trade facilitation issues, in particular those relating to customs. The AEC Blueprint 2025, which the EU-ABC has strongly welcomed and supports, makes frequent reference to the need for the region to move forward on these issues. The advocacy team has developed both short-term and medium-term recommendations, which we believe are entirely implementable within reasonable time frames, which would, in turn, greatly boost the ease of cross-border trade within ASEAN and bring benefits to all parts of the economy, not just to the larger traders and MNCs, but primarily to SMEs.

The short-term recommendations are designed so that they could be reasonably achieved in the next 12 to 18 months. They are also designed to full in to line with one of the key objectives of Laos for its chairmanship of ASEAN in 2016, i.e. to improve trade facilitation across the region.

The medium-term recommendations are designed so that they could be reasonably achieved in the next 24 to 36 months. Items such as the full establishment of National Single Windows and, ultimately, the ASEAN Single Window, naturally need more time for implementation due to the infrastructure and software requirements needed. In the Philippines we have been advocating the creation of the National Single Window for a long time and we are hopeful that the Bureau of Customs will finally implement the Single Window that was already sanctioned during the days of former Customs Commissioner Sevilla.

The advocacy group urges ASEAN and its Member States to put in place the necessary programmes, legislation and guidelines as soon as possible in order that these measures can be fully implemented within the suggested timelines. We will certainly add this to the agenda of the EU-ASEAN Business Summit 2017 which will be held in the Philippines in March 2017.

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