Posts by Mike Poverello

I have spent the best part of 28 years in the service of South African Customs, and a further 5 years as a free-lance consultant to the customs industry as well as an advisor on several customs systems modernisation programmes with international ICT and consulting firms between 1998 and 2002. Like many of my peers and numerous colleagues worldwide, "customs" is not another government department, but an institution which has as much a 'corporate identity' as it is an arm of government. Perhaps, I'm guilty of nostalgia at times gone by, but it nevertheless concerns me what is happening to so many customs administrations. First, many have by government decree merged into what is otherwise known as a 'Revenue Authority', with some success - as is the case with Customs in South Africa. A more recent development sees the customs being removed from its traditional 'treasury' base into 'Border Security Agencies'. Some fortunate administrations appear to have retained their independance which makes the organisational mandate and objectives more focussed and attainable. Through this 'blog' I wish to share my experiences and encourage those of you of like mind to collaborate.

Worldbank – Corruption in Customs

Customs are often perceived as one of the most corrupt institutions in developing countries. Though difficult and complex, fighting corruption in customs is possible but requires an approach that is less centered on transposition of norms and practices from developed countries.  

In the World Bank’s recently published Global Report on Anti-Corruption, we argue that addressing the root causes of corruption goes beyond legal reforms, code of ethics or IT system upgrades. Currently, there is no lack of prescriptions, norms, or standards to address corruption in customs. For instance, the Kyoto Convention advocates standardization and simplification of customs procedures, codes of ethics and conduct, and measures focusing on wage incentives and staff rotation. Although these types of initiatives are important, the results have often been disappointing in developing economy contexts. 

It is important to establish a robust legal framework and measures such as simplification of processes and import policies or automation but they must be supplemented with other comprehensive approaches that address the root causes of corruption. 

The obstacle of social norms
Corruption is often deeply embedded in the social norms and expectations of political and social life. Such norms provide the unwritten rules of behavior. In countries riddled with corruption, laws often fail to regulate conduct, so the prevailing social norms guide many interactions by dictating the rules of the game. Thus, there may also be social sanctions for violating these norms.

Rwanda and Georgia had been confronted with pervasive corruption in customs for years. With new leadership in the 2000s in both countries, a comprehensive approach to tackle corruption in customs was launched with some drastic measures. In both countries, a combination of measures addressing the broader social roots of corruption and technical measures were implemented. The experiences from Georgia and Rwanda are, of course, context specific and refer to particular events in the two countries’ history. Still, some lessons of broader relevance can be identified.

In Georgia, the tax code was simplified, including the elimination of many tax loopholes and a reduction in the number of taxes and import tariffs. One-stop windows were introduced for customs clearing procedures. In Rwanda, reforms led to significant improvements in collection efforts and auditing procedures. The reforms in these countries were part of larger and radical public sector reforms, with a clear message from the political leadership that corruption will not be tolerated. 

Discredited public agencies were dismantled and replaced with new ones. The reform packages involved a drastic reshaping of the bureaucracies with simplification of administrative procedures. Opportunities and the space to engage in corrupt practices were then dramatically reduced. The new rules were strictly enforced based on effective monitoring mechanisms and little or no tolerance of deviations. 

Local ownership, leadership and data analytics 
Local ownership is essential for the sustainability of anti-corruption reforms in customs, and it is important to offer political backing to reformers. At early stage of reforms, it is important to have measures that lead to an increase in customs revenue as it helps to establish credibility and trust in the reform process for high-level officials. 

However, sustainable change demands effort, commitment and leadership over time from heads of customs.

Finally, the emergence of data analytics tools and individual performance-based indicators, such as average processing time between inspectors in the same port, can help detect corrupt inspectors based on their practices. 

Source: World Bank, Blog by Odd-helge Fjeldstad & Gael Raballand ,20 October 2020

Two borders with SA proposed to ease pressure on Beitbridge

The Department of Immigration in Zimbabwe has advised the Government to consider formalising two proposed borders with South Africa to relieve pressure on Beitbridge and curb irregular migration and smuggling along the border’s flanks.

Beitbridge is the only land border with South Africa and two more tourism borders have been proposed at Shashe (120km west of Beitbridge town) and at Tshituripasi some 125km east of the border town.

One house (for immigration officials) and a road have been constructed at Shashe, while a road has been constructed and land for housing has been cleared at Tshituripasi.

Shashe was created in 2007 to facilitate groups of tourists during the Wildrun and the Tour de Tuli that are held annually.

Tour de Tuli attracts 500 visitors, while Wildrun attracts 80, all from across the globe and the events are usually held three months apart.

Assistant Regional Immigration Officer-in-Charge of Beitbridge, Mr Nqobile Ncube, made the call during a recent visit by parliamentarians from the committee on Defence, Security and Home Affairs.

He said though the sites were identified a decade ago and initial bilateral engagements had been done, nothing much had happened on the ground.

Mr Ncube said the borders should be set up in the mould of Maitengwe, Mpoengs and Mlambapele, which Zimbabwe share with Botswana.

He said the creation of such ports that can be manned by a few officers will help to reduce smuggling and irregular migration (border jumping).

“We are concerned with cases of illegal crossing on the flanks of the legal border (Beitbridge),” said Mr Ncube. “Such a scenario is not good in terms of security and the country being able to collect revenue through imports/exports which are leaking via the many non-formal entry/exit points.”

Mr Ncube said in some instances, those living along the border areas did not see the need to travel for more than 100km or 200km to gain legal access to a place, which is just across the river.

He said such a reality could not be overlooked,  hence the need to formalise the already existing points, which can open on specified times to cater for all those travelling on family or tourism-related business in those areas.

The two borders, he said, will help boost arrivals of tourists, with the Shashe point catering for people visiting the Greater Mapungubwe Trans-frontier conservation area which coversBotswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe (west of Beitbridge).

“The Tshituripasi border will take locals, traffic to other western parts of Zimbabwe and to the Greater Limpopo Trans-frontier Conservation Area, which involves Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe,” said Mr Ncube.

“We have had to use these borders during major annual tourism events, albeit on a temporary basis and that has been done successfully. We have seen it, we can manage. This will be a relief to Beitbridge, which clears half a million people every month.”

Source: The Herald (Zimbabwe), 20 October 2020

fDi’s Global Free Zones – the 2019 winners

Each year, fDI recognises the worlds best Free Zones in terms of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Access the Global Free zones of the Year 2019 Report here!

HMRC – Border Operating Model with the EU

From 1 January 2021, the transition period with the European Union (EU) will end, and the United Kingdom (UK) will operate a full, external border as a sovereign nation. This means that controls will be placed on the movement of goods between Great Britain (GB) and the EU.

The UK Government will implement full border controls on imports coming into GB from the EU. Recognising the impact of coronavirus on businesses’ ability to prepare, the UK Government has taken the decision to introduce the new border controls in three stages up until 1 July 2021.

Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) published the first iteration of the Border Operating Model in July 2020, setting out the core model that all importers and exporters will need to follow from January 2021 as well as the additional requirements for specific products such as live animals, plants, products of animal origin and high-risk food not of animal origin. We also provided important details of Member State requirements as traders and the border industry will need to ensure they are ready to comply with these, and not just Great Britain (GB) requirements. Indeed, as set out in the recently published ‘Reasonable Worst Case Scenario’ assumptions, it is largely the level of readiness for Member State requirements which will determine whether there is disruption to the flow of goods at the end of the transition period. This is why we have included additional signposting to those requirements throughout the document, and are encouraging all GB businesses not just to ensure their own readiness but also the readiness of EU businesses to whom they export, and throughout their supply chains.

Since July, the HMRC has worked closely with industry to further develop plans for the end of the transition period, and also to respond to industry questions since the publication of the first iteration of the Border Operating Model. This latest iteration of the Border Operating Model provides additional information in a number of key areas as set out below as well as clarifying a number of questions from industry.

You can access the HMRC Border Operating Model here.

Dutch Tax Authority & EUROPOL – Big illicit tobacco bust

One of the largest illegal cigarette factories ever uncovered in the Netherlands has been taken offline by law enforcement, with 13 arrests.

The Europol-supported operation – led by the investigation service of the Dutch tax authorities or FIOD – concentrated on an illegal tobacco factory in West-Betuwe, south of Utrecht. Along with the 13 arrests, 3.6m cigarettes and 32 tonnes of tobacco were seized along with packaging material, cigarette paper, filters and glue.

The tax loss prevented to the Dutch state revenue for the illegal production is estimated at €6m, according to Europol, and the Dutch authorities have estimated that the machinery could potentially produce 1m cigarettes a day.

The enforcement action comes just a few weeks after an illegal tobacco factory capable of making 10m cigarettes per week was raided in the German city of Kranenburg, revealing once again the extent of illicit cigarette production within the EU.

A recent study by KPMG  found that imports of illicit cigarettes from non-EU countries such as Ukraine and Belarus declined in 2019, with law enforcement reports suggesting there are “increasing volumes from illegal factories within the EU.”

The latest raid was somewhat unusual however in that the entire production cycle took place in one factory, whereas generally production is dispersed across multiple facilities so criminals can spread the risk.

“The production is believed to have been destined for the black market in countries where the retail price of cigarettes is high,” says Europol. “The factory is presumed to have produced 18m illegal cigarettes seized abroad in recent months.”

Illicit cigarettes typically contain even higher levels of toxic ingredients such as tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide than genuine brand-name products.

They also pose a greater fire risk as they do not include designs that ensure that a lit cigarette will self-extinguish if not actively smoked.

Source: SecuringInustry.com

Gucci – Pokes fun at Counterfeiters with “Fake/Not” collection

Italian designer brand Gucci has been battling counterfeiting of its products for decades, and has drawn attention to the problem with a tongue-in-cheek new collection.

According to Gucci, the “Fake/Not” collection for Fall/Winter 2020 – which includes men’s and women’s wear as well as bags and shoes – “began with a print inspired by a retro appropriation of the Gucci logo featuring the bicolour stripe.”

It goes on: “Entering a new chapter, the green and red design mixes with ‘Fake/Not’—a playful commentary on the idea of imitation.”

‘Fake’ is printed in bold lettering on one side of the item – in fact, it looks a lot like the real/fake comparisons one might see in pictures online – with ‘Not’ on the other.

Source: SecuringIndustry.com

UN Special Recommendation No.33 – Guidelines for Single Window : 2020 Edition

In many countries, companies involved in international trade must prepare and submit large volumes of information and documents to governmental authorities to comply with import, export and transit-related regulatory requirements. Often, this information and documentation must be submitted to several different agencies, each with their own specific (manual or automated) systems and paper forms. These extensive requirements, together with their associated compliance costs, can constitute a serious burden to both Governments and the business community and represents a serious barrier to the development of international trade.

One approach to addressing this problem is the establishment of a Single Window federating all relevant government administrations whereby all trade related information and/or documents need only be submitted once at a single entry point. This can enhance the availability and handling of information, expedite and simplify information flows between trade and government and can result in greater harmonization and sharing of the relevant data across governmental systems, bringing meaningful gains to all parties involved in cross-border trade. The use of such a facility can result in the improved efficiency and effectiveness of official controls and can reduce costs for both Governments and traders due to better use of resources.

The Single Window is therefore a practical application of trade facilitation concepts meant to reduce non-tariff trade barriers.

Download the Guidelines here!

Source: United Nations

Harmonised Message Structures for International Forwarding and Transport Messages on the way

NEWS From the GEFEG Blog

UN COVID-19 project to support data exchange for international supply chain processes

The emergence of COVID-19 has shown an increased demand for coordination, efficient planning, modelling and risk control in many areas. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and its trade related United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) are strongly supporting multilateral engagement for interoperable cross-border standards, such as UN/CEFACT Data exchange Standards.

Multi-Model Transport Reference Data Model Ready for use

Many current regulations, standards, instructions and business capacity-building measures are available already. The comprehensive Multi-modal Transport Reference Data Model (MMT RDM) covers the requirements of international forwarding and transport, including related trade, insurance, customs and other regulatory documentary requirements based on the integration of trade facilitation best practices, developed by UN/CEFACT.

COVID-19 Project lead by GEFEG: Development of a standardised data set for the Transport sector

On behalf of the UN, GEFEG provides the project lead for the COVID 19 project. The project concentrates on ensuring the flow of goods and the transport across the various transport modes. Its overall objective is to set up a multi-modal harmonized set of mainly transport documents as a profile of the UN/CEFACT Multi-modal Transport Reference Data Model (MMT RDM).

The data sets developed include seven electronic exchange messages such as Booking Instruction, Shipping Instruction, Waybill, Bill of Lading, Packing List, Status Messages, Rapid Alert Security Food and Feed (RASFF) and their Business Requirement Specifications (BRSs). It has been checked that every data element with the same name also has the same semantic meaning.

The new profile of the MMT RDM will build a bridge to the already existing electronic exchange formats and allow a better use of state-of-the-art technologies such as block chain and APIs regarding the different transport modes.

Focusing on the different transport modes in the next phase

Additional information will be collected in the next phase, with a stronger focus on the different modes of transport. Results will be reported back to the Multi-modal Transport RDM and change processes initiated regarding relevant yet missing information in the MMT RDM. And last but not least, profiles of the MMT for the different modes of transport, such as air, rail, road, and maritime will be published.

Michael Dill, CEO of GEFEG is looking forward to welcome further participants in the project: It will be important to get advice and hints on any missing data requirements across the various modes of transport! I would like to encourage colleagues involved in transport processes to join the next phase of the project. Your valuable input and expert knowledge would be very much appreciated.”

Interested parties wishing to participate in the project should contact info@gefeg.com with subject detail: New Participant in COVID-19 project.

Source: GEFEG News Blog, dated 16 September 2020

HMM’s 24,000 TEU boxship fleet is complete

Picture: HMM

South Korean container shipping line HMM has has completed its fleet of mega-ships with the unveiling of the 24,000 TEU HMM St Petersburg

The announcement marks the end of a two-year journey for HMM to provide “efficient and stable services” by using larger containerships. In an online update the carrier said all 12 of the vessels will be deployed on the Asia-Europe service.

The HMM St Petersburg was built by Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) and delivered on September 11. Five of the vessels were built by SHI with the other seven by fellow Korean shipbuilder Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME). 

Additionally, it will receive eight 16,000 TEU containerships from Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), due to be delivered in the second quarter of 2021. This will take its new fleet to 20. 

The 12 24,000 TEU vessels have been fitted with scrubbers and an optimised hull design that cuts emissions and increases fuel efficiency. 

The first vessel of the mega-ship fleet, the HMM Algeciras was unveiled in April 2020 and remains the largest in the world. 

South Korea’s maritime industry, in particular its shipbuilding sector, has suffered substantially since Hanjin Shipping went bankrupt in 2017.

Source: Port Technology, 15 September 2020

Nigeria – Huawei, Smiths Detection, Bionica win concession for $3.1bn Customs modernisation project

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday ratified the $3.1 billion anticipatory approval by President Muhammadu Buhari to concession the modernisation project of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to a consortium named Messers E.Customs HC Project Limited. The concession is for 20 years.

The consortium is made up of Bionica Technologies W.A. Limited, Huawei, Smiths Detection, Nuctech of China, Larsen & Toubro Group, and Paramount Group.

The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the virtual FEC meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja on Wednesday, said the project will be at zero cost to the Federal Government since the $3.1 billion being proposed for the project will be sourced by the concessionaire.

She said, “The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning presented a memo, which is for the ratification of Mr. President’s anticipatory approval for the contract for the Customs modernisation.

“The purpose of the memo we presented to Council was for a project that will enable the complete automation of the Nigeria Custom Service processes and procedures using the application and information and technology in all aspects of Customs administration in favour of a firm known as E. Customs HC Projects Nigeria Limited For a concessionary period of 20 years.

“The main objective of this project is to completely automate every aspect of the Customs business and to institutionalise the use of smart and emerging technologies that will enhance the statutory function of the Nigeria Customs Service in the areas of revenue generation as well as trade facilitation and enhancement of security. The total cost of the project is in the sum of $3.1 billion. The consortium, the PPP group that has been approved are led by Messers Y Technologies with four other members.

“The committee that led this process also looked at the National Trade Impact process that has been going on for years and confirmed that the Nigerian e-customs project is a subset of the National Trade Impact and would prefer the Nigeria Customs to play its role in the national trading platform.

“The Bionica Technologies West Africa Limited, Bargain Securities and Supplies Nigeria Limited, these are lead sponsor and co-sponsor. We also have The Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) as the lead financier and Huawei Technology as a technical service provider.

“So, the council today, ratified Mr. President’s approval for the PPP concession for a 20-year period to Messers E. Customs HC Project Limited as a concessionaire for the delivery of customs modernisation project. This is a project that will not have an immediate cost to the government, the investors are providing all of the financings and this revenue will be deployed in three phases in the concessionary period of 20 years.

“The Nigeria Customs currently has some level of automation services but it is not all of its serves that are automated. This is an end-to-end automation of all of Nigeria Customs Service processes and it’s going to bring huge value to the country. So this investment of $3.1 billion is broken down into capital investment of $1.2 billion which will be done in three phases over 36 months by these investors and $1.1 billion is our projection of the operational cost over the 20-year period of the implementation of the project.

“This project has the potential to yield up to $176 billion of revenue and the consortia that are providing this investment are going to be paid over time according to the schedule that is negotiated for their investments including their profits and cost.

“So this is the best possible way for Nigeria to roll out an important capital project using funds from the private sector and providing service for the use of Nigerian people and the government.”

Asked if with the project Customs would overtake petroleum as a source of revenue for the country, the Minister said it was part of the diversification plan of government.

According to her, “We hope that at some point those revenues from oil will begin to be insignificant compared to revenue from the non-oil sector in the Nigerian economy. That is our aspiration and that is the true meaning of diversification.”

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in his explanation said, “The key point is that it is not costing the Federal Government one thing, the $3.1 billion being proposed will be sourced by the sponsors and the partners.”

15 companies were pre-qualified and were all invited to make presentations on their solutions to enable Nigeria realise its vision of attaining complete automation of its Customs operations and enthroning best practice methods as obtained in advanced countries.

Bionica Technologies W.A. Limited was the preferred bidder after a rigorous evaluation process. Bionica presented its bid together with a consortium namely, Huawei, Smiths Detection, Nuctech of China, Larsen & Toubro Group, and Paramount Group. The Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) is both an equity investor and the Mandated Lead Arranger (MLA), which will facilitate loan syndication with foreign and local banks.

Source: Ships and Ports, September 2002

MSC to accelerate e-B/L roll-out in India after successful pilot

Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has announced it will accelerate efforts to promote an electronic Bill of Lading (e-B/L) across the maritime industry in response to the crisis brought on by COVID-19. 

In a statement, the carrier said it has been running a pilot scheme alongside its third-party blockchain platform WAVE to introduce the e-BL in India since late-2019. 

MSC’s customers continued to ship goods by using what it called the “reliable and secure digital platform for the fast transfer of trade-related documents”, even through throughout the pandemic, the company said. 

The pandemic caused a drop in TEU volume across the world but as China has resumed exports, congestion has hurt port operations, particularly in India.

The problem has been exacerbated by lockdown measures forcing people to work remotely which has led to vital documents such as the Bill of Lading (BL) being incomplete. 

To mitigate this problem, MSC has said it will offer the WAVE e-BL solution to streamline affected operations and ensure continuity of service.

In the pre-COVID, paper-based process, it would take days for the BL to travel from origin to destination, physically changing hands several times along the way.

“We have had situations where couriers were unable to deliver documents between ports, trade offices and banks due to quarantine measures,” relates Capt. Deepak Tewari, Managing Director at MSC India.

“WAVE mirrors the paper-based process that the shipping and cargo transportation industry is used to, only without physical couriers. 

“Thus, it’s an ideal solution to implement at a time when our customers need to rapidly adjust their processes, as the learning curve is quite low.” he adds.

Captain Deepak Tewari, MSC, also commented: “We have been working with WAVE on introducing and piloting an e-BL solution since 2019. We ran successful pilot projects with some of our customers last year, where we saw first-hand the benefits which arise from digitalising this part of the process. 

“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we decided to accelerate our roll-out and offer the e-B/L solution to our broader base of customers.” 

Gadi Ruschin, CEO at WAVE, comments: “Our mission since founding WAVE has been to transform the efficiency and security of international trade documentation through our robust digitisation protocol. 

“We now see ourselves as ‘mission critical’ to ensuring trade can continue as physical movement of people and the paper they carry has been shuttered across the world. It couldn’t come at a more critical time as countries rely on trade to fight COVID-19 and save their economies. 

“We launched this unique onboarding effort to help MSC swiftly onboard stakeholders and navigate the challenges while preparing the carrier to flourish once conditions normalise.”

MSC claimed its e-BL solution can cut BL transit time from days to minutes, without the need for physical contact. The e-B/L is sent using WAVE’s blockchain-based system, which uses distributed ledger technology to ensure that all parties can issue, transfer, endorse and manage trade-related documents through a secure, decentralised network.

Source: Porttechnology, 10 September 2020

New terminal at Walvis Bay becomes fully operational

The new container terminal at the Namibian Port of Walvis Bay is now fully operational, according to a report by the African Development Bank (ADB). 

In a statement, the ADB said the terminal was built on constructed on 40 hectares of land reclaimed from the ocean by China Harbor Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) as part of a project worth $300 million. 

It will, according the the bank, turn Walvis Bay into becoming a logistics hub for southern Africa to meet the growing regional demand for freight and provide maritime access for landlocked countries of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

The African Development Bank provided a ZAR 2,982 million ($178 million) loan representing over 70% of the project funding.

The works included the dredging over 3.9 million cubic metres of sand, used partly for the reclamation, construction of a 600-metre quay wall, the laying of 304,000 square metres of paved surface and the construction of a workshop and administrative buildings. 

It also entailed the installation of four ship-to-shore (STS) cranes, the construction of a one-kilometre road, the laying of 2.3 km of rail lines, and the installation of service networks. The facility’s electricity supply was also successfully upgraded, the report noted.

“Overall, the project has fully achieved its goals,” the report said, increasing the terminal’s capacity from 355,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent unit) to 750,000 TEUs yearly. It has also reduced vessel waiting time to less than 8 hours and cut container transit time from 14.5 days to 9.5 days. 

Expanded activities required the training of seven pilots and 26 ship-to-shore crane operators, including one woman.

The demand for services from the port of Walvis Bay has increased by about 8% following the commissioning of the new terminal, the report notes. Cargo volumes, revenues and income from other services (maritime, port, berth and light dues, and other storage and handling fees) are expected to increase by at least 8% in 2020 and 2021. After that, growth should reach 5% yearly the report projects.

The project completion reporting team was led by Richard Malinga, Bank Principal Transport Engineer and Task Manager for the project.

The Walvis Bay expansion aligns with the Bank’s High-5 strategic priorities, including promoting the integration of Africa.

Source: Porttechnology, 11 September 2020

WCO holds its first Accreditation Workshop on E-Commerce

A Global On-line Accreditation Workshop for English-speaking experts on E-Commerce was held from 31 August to 7 September 2020 via the CLiKC! platform of the World Customs Organization (WCO). 

Due to the increasing needs of WCO Members for Capacity Building support for a harmonized and efficient implementation of the WCO Framework of Standards on Cross-border E-Commerce and other supporting tools, the Secretariat organized this first Accreditation Workshop in the area of E-Commerce as a pilot virtual accreditation initiative.

The event was organized with the objective of setting up a pool of English-speaking Technical and Operational Advisors capable of independently leading, on behalf of the WCO for its Members, Capacity Building missions in the field of Cross-border E-Commerce.

Twelve selected candidates representing five of the WCO regions took part in the Workshop. Mr. Mike Leahy of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), former Customs Co-Chairperson of the WCO Working Group on E-Commerce, joined the workshop as a co-facilitator. Participants from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Ireland, Japan, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan and the United Kingdom worked intensively and demonstrated their knowledge and skills to deliver Capacity Building activities in the area of Cross-border E-Commerce. Moreover, the Workshop served as a forum for sharing knowledge and experience, as well as discussing challenges and solutions. 

The participants that successfully completed the Accreditation Workshop will be invited to the next stage of the WCO expert accreditation process, an in-field mission with a qualified WCO expert in the area of E-Commerce. Fully accredited experts will be expected to conduct future WCO Capacity Building activities.

Also read – Facilitating E-Commerce (WCO Article)

Source: WCO, 8 September 2020

DTIC Launches New Support System to Address SA’s Export Barriers

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) launched the Export Barriers Monitoring Mechanism (EBMM) that will put South Africa in a strong position to provide the type of consistent, ongoing support that is needed to continuously improve the country’s export environment. The Department’s e Deputy Director-General of Export Development, Promotion and Outward Investments, Ms Lerato Mataboge said the fundamental aim of EBMM is to make the government’s support to exporters facing barriers more effective, more flexible, and more accessible.

By creating a systematic approach to monitoring these barriers, the government can develop a long-term agenda to target the most important export barriers. By addressing each individual barrier, government can begin to manage each problem with the level of nuance and detail needed for these complex challenges.

During an initial pilot project, 28 key export barriers were processed by the EBMM and during the initial phase of the national lockdown, the EBMM methodology was used to process 76 barriers related to COVID-19. From today, the EBMM is open to any firm that encounters an export barrier of any kind, whether locally or in any foreign market.

In 2018, South African exporters faced an estimated 154,571 unique customs requirements worldwide. Over the last ten years, 23,795 new or amended technical barriers to trade have been registered with the World Trade Organisation; while over the same period 13,364 sanitary and phytosanitary barriers were registered or amended.

DTIC’s priority is to work progressively to smooth these barriers, the experience of the last decade of trade has demonstrated that we need to be prepared to manage this growing complexity. Increasingly, a key component of global competitiveness will be how we manage a constantly changing global trading environment. Managing this environment will only be possible through a close working partnership between the government and the private sector.

Speaking at the same launch, the Executive Director of the South African Electrotechnical Export Council, Ms Chiboni Evans, highlighted the importance of maximising content and projects in the African continent, and the important role played by export barriers in reducing competitiveness in the region.

Persistent logistics barriers meant that transporting goods by road took longer from all our major cities to mines in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. It was then easy for these countries to import goods from Asia, Americas and Europe rather than waiting on South Africa.

Highlighting previous experiences of partnering with the dtic to resolve export barriers, Ms Evans noted that a lot of the barriers to export can only be resolved by the private sector working together with government. She added that this new mechanism will assist greatly in opening up government support to a much broader spectrum of private sector individuals.

All export barrier queries can be reported to ExportBarriers@thedtic.gov.za or through the the dtic website.

Source: The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, August 31, 2020

Benefits and Drawbacks of the E-commerce Moratorium

India and South Africa circulated a communication to members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) General Council, arguing that the WTO moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions has “catastrophic” impacts on developing countries’ economic growth, jobs, and the attainment of the SDGs. In another communication, a group of WTO members highlighted “the overall benefits” of duty-free electronic transmissions.

The WTO e-commerce moratorium, which bans countries from imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions, dates back to 1998 when ministers at the Second Ministerial Conference adopted the Declaration on Global Electronic Commerce, calling for the establishment of a work programme on e-commerce, which was adopted later that year. Since then, at every Ministerial Conference, WTO members have agreed “to maintain the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions.”

The WTO Work Programme on Electronic Commerce defines “electronic commerce” as the “production, distribution, marketing, sale or delivery of goods and services by electronic means.” According to a recent WTO report, the enforcement of social distancing, lockdowns, and other measures to address the COVID‑19 pandemic resulted in an uptake in e-commerce, including online sales and streaming of videos and films.

In March 2020, India and South Africa circulated a communication, outlining the implications the moratorium has on developing countries, including: tariff revenue losses; impacts on industrialization; impacts on the use of digital technologies like 3D printing in manufacturing; as well as losses of other duties and charges. The countries argue that the moratorium is “equivalent to developing countries giving the digitally advanced countries duty-free access to [their] markets.”

According to a UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) article, in 2017 alone, the potential tariff revenue loss to developing countries due to the moratorium was USD 10 billion. The article further notes that removal of the moratorium could provide policy space for developing countries to regulate imports of electronic transmissions and generate annual tariff revenue of up to 40 times greater than that in developed countries.

communication from Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Hong Kong, China, Iceland, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, and Uruguay, circulated in June 2020, highlights a paper by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) titled, ‘Electronic Transmissions and International Trade: Shedding New Light on the Moratorium Debate.’ The members state that, according to the paper, “the overall benefits” of duty-free electronic transmissions “outweigh the potential forgone government revenues” due to the moratorium. The members recommend that these findings be considered in the current discussions on the extension of the moratorium.

A decision on whether or not the moratorium should continue will be taken at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12). Originally scheduled for June 2020, the Conference has been tentatively postponed until June 2021.

Source: SDG Knowledge Hub, 23 July 2020