SA – Hub for computerised Regional Integration?

AfricaFrom time to time it is nice to reflect on a good news story within the local customs and logistics industry. Freight & Trade Weekly’s (2015.11.06, page 4) article – “SA will be base for development of single customs platform” provides such a basis for reflection. The article reports on the recent merger of freight industry IT service providers Compu-Clearing and Core Freight and their plans to establish a robust and agile IT solution for trade on the African sub-continent.

In recent years local software development companies have facilitated most of the IT changes emerging from the Customs Modernisation Programme. Service Providers also known as computer bureaus have been in existence as far back as the early 1980’s when Customs introduced its first automated system ‘CAPE’. They have followed and influenced Customs developments that have resulted in the modern computerised and electronic communication platforms we have today. For those who do not know there are today at least 20 such service providers bringing a variety of software solutions to the market. Several of these provide a whole lot more than just customs software, offering solutions for warehousing, logistics and more. As the FTW article suggests, ongoing demands by trade customers and the ever-evolving technology space means that these software solutions will offer even greater customization, functionality, integration and ease of use for customers.

What is also clear is that these companies are no longer pure software development houses. While compliance with Customs law applies to specific parties required to registered and/or licensed for Customs purposes, the terrain on which the software company plays has become vital to enable these licensees or registrants the ‘ability to comply’ within the modern digital environment. This means that Service Providers need to have more than just IT skills, most importantly a better understanding of the laws affecting their customers – the importers, exporters, Customs brokers, freight forwarders, warehouse operators, etc.

Under the new Customs Control Act, for instance, the sheer level of compliance – subject to punitive measures in the fullness of time – will compel Service Providers to have a keen understanding of both the ‘letter of the law’ as well as the ability to translate this into user-friendly solutions that will provide comfort to their customers. Comfort to the extent that Customs registrants and licensees will have confidence that their preferred software solutions not only provide the tools for trading, but also the means for compliance of the law. Then, there is also the matter of scalability of these solutions to keep pace with ongoing local, regional and global supply chain demands.

The recent Customs Modernisation Programme realised significant technological advances with associated benefits for both SARS and trade alike. For the customs and shipping industry quantification of these benefits probably lies more in ‘improved convenience’ and ‘speed’ of the customer’s interaction with SARS than cost-savings itself. My next installment on this subject will consider the question of cross-border trade and how modern customs systems can influence and lead to increased regional trade.

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US Customs to assist exporters in resolving disputes with foreign customs

CBP logoU.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) published a Federal Register Notice inviting U.S. exporters to request CBP’s assistance in resolving disputes with foreign customs agencies over the tariff classification or customs valuation of U.S. exports. CBP explains that it is willing to assist U.S. exporters with these disputes under the auspices of the World Customs Organization (WCO). CBP is very active at the WCO and regularly participates in meetings concerning the application of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS System) and the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Customs Valuation Agreement (CVA). According to CBP, this process was helpful in providing a successful outcome for clients who disputed a foreign customs agency’s classification of imported goods.

Tariff Classification
CBP represents the United States at meetings under the auspices of the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (“HS Convention”). The HS Convention is the international agreement that provides that WCO Members will implement the HS System and comply with decisions of the various committees organized under the convention. CBP attends semiannual meetings of the WCO’s Harmonized System Committee (HSC), where contracting parties to the HS Convention examine policy matters, make decisions on classification questions, settle disputes, and prepare amendments to the HS System and its Explanatory Notes.

Article 10 of the HS Convention governs disputes between contracting parties concerning the interpretation or application of the HS Convention. The article provides that parties with potential disputes should first try to settle the dispute through bilateral negotiations. If such negotiation cannot resolve the dispute, the parties may refer the dispute to the HSC for its consideration and recommendations. The HSC, in turn, refers irreconcilable disputes to the WCO Council for its recommendations.

Customs Valuation
CBP represents the United States at the WCO with respect to issues arising under the CVA. Pursuant to Annex II to the CVA, the WCO’s Technical Committee on Customs Valuation (TCCV) is authorized to examine specific problems arising from the customs valuation systems of WTO Members. The TCCV is responsible for examining the administration of the CVA, providing WTO Members with advisory opinions regarding particular customs valuation issues, and issuing commentaries or explanatory notes regarding the CVA. Like the HSC, the TCCV may get involved in disputes amongst foreign customs agencies. CBP stands willing to help U.S. exporters with these disputes. This process may provide U.S. exporters with a faster procedure to resolve disputes than a typical WTO dispute.

CBP’s Role at the WCO May Resolve Export Issues for U.S. Exporters
CBP states in the notice that its communication with other customs administrations through the meetings of the HSC and TCCV at the WCO can “often serve to eliminate or resolve export issues for U.S. traders.” As an example, in 2014, a U.S. exporter notified CBP of a foreign customs administration’s misclassification of its textile exports. The U.S. exporter requested that pursuant to Article 10 of the HS Convention, CBP (1) contact the foreign customs administration to resolve the tariff classification dispute; and (2) refer the matter to the HSC at the WCO, if it could not be resolved bilaterally. After confirming it agreed with the U.S. exporter’s position, CBP engaged the foreign customs administration directly. Within seven months of the exporter’s request, CBP secured a favorable decision by the foreign customs administration to classify the merchandise in a manner consistent with the U.S. position. Consequently, the U.S. exporter obtained correct tariff treatment of its imported merchandise in the foreign country as a result of CBP’s engagement.

Source: http://www.internationaltradecomplianceupdate.com/

South Africa Economic Update – Focus on Export Competitiveness

WB-South Africa-Export CompetitivenessThe report, South Africa Economic Update 5: Focus on Export Competitiveness, examines the performance of South Africa’s export firms against that of peers in other emerging markets— and analyzes the challenges. It assesses South Africa’s economic prospects in the context of the global economic environment and prospects.

With this Economic Update, we hope to enrich the on-going debate on growing a sector critical for South Africa’s economic growth. As with previous editions, this report is intended not to be prescriptive but to offer evidence-based analysis that will help bring South Africa’s policymakers, researchers, and export stakeholders closer to finding innovative and sustainable ways to grow the sector. The report highlights opportunities for growth, particularly with Sub-Saharan Africa being the largest market for non-mineral exports. It also explores strategic directions that can ignite export growth and help South Africa realize its goals of creating jobs and reducing poverty and inequality.

The report identifies three areas that present opportunities to promote the competitiveness and spur the growth in South Africa’s export sector:

  • Boosting domestic competition would increase efficiency and productivity. By opening local markets to domestic and foreign entry, South Africa would enable new, more productive firms to enter and place downward pressure on high markups. This would lower input costs and tip incentives in favor of exporting by reducing excess returns in domestic markets. Competition would also stimulate investment in innovation and, over time, condition the market to ensure that firms entering competitive global markets have reached the productivity threshold to support their survival and growth.
  • Alleviating infrastructure bottlenecks, especially in power, and removing distortions in access to and pricing of trade logistics in rail, port, and information and communication technologies would reduce overall domestic prices and further enhance competitiveness. It would be especially beneficial for small and medium-size exporters and non-traditional export sectors, which these costs tend to hit harder.
  • Promoting deeper regional integration in goods and services within Africa would generate the right conditions for the emergence of Factory Southern Africa, a regional value chain that could feed into global production networks. South Africa could play a central role in such a chain, leveraging the scale of the regional market, exploiting sources of comparative advantage across Africa to reduce production costs, and providing other countries in the region a  platform for reaching global markets. Progress on all three fronts would help catapult South Africa toward faster-growing exports, allowing it to realize the higher, more inclusive, job-intensive growth articulated in the National Development Plan.

Source: World Bank

Zimbabwe to use the Chinese currency as legal tender

yuanZimbabwe’s central bank on Wednesday said it would allow the Chinese yuan, Indian rupee, Japanese yen, and Australian dollar to be added into the basket of multiple currencies to be circulated inside the country.

The decision was unveiled by the monetary statement issued by acting governor of the Reserved Bank of Zimbabwe Charity Dhliwayo.

“We wish to advise exporters and the general transacting public that individuals and corporates can also open accounts denominated in the Australian Dollar (AUD), Chinese Yuan (CYN), Indian Rupee (INR) and Japanese Yen (JPY),” Dhliwayo said.

She said the decision to include the three foreign currencies is made upon the consideration that trade and investment ties between Zimbabwe, China, India, Japan and Australia have grown appreciably in recent years.

Zimbabwe has adopted a multiple currency system since the collapse of its local currency, the Zimbabwean dollar in 2009. The most used currency in the southern African country since then has been the US dollar and South African rand. The Botswana pula and British pound are also among the foreign currencies allowed to circulate.

Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said last December during his annual budget statement that the multiple currency system is to stay for foreseeable future.

China is Zimbabwe’s major trading partner. Bilateral trade exceeded 1 billion US dollars for two consecutive years since 2012. While Zimbabwean officials have expressed the intention to add Chinese yuan into the currency basket, no formal agreement has been signed between the central banks of the two countries yet. Source: zimdev.wordpress.com

Container Cleaning Business for Sale

IBC_Robotics-600x0Within a decade the number of containers being shipped throughout the world is expected to double from 30 to 60 million containers. To facilitate this level of trade there will be many challenges ahead for our industry. One challenge that is often overlooked is keeping every single container clean after and before transit.

However, Swedish start-up IBC Robotics believes it has the technology to meet this challenge through its new IBA system. This breakthrough product is an environment friendly and automated cleaning solution for ship containers and a far cry from today’s manual, time consuming and often dangerous cleaning methods.

IBC was founded in 2010, based on an invention by Kerstin Eriksson, founder and still majority shareholder of the company. IBC Robotics has in a close collaboration with a.o. the Robot Valley in Västerås, Sweden, and academic technology institutions in Stockholm and Örebro, developed and technically verified the IBA system. IBC Robotics has already been granted patent rights for the IBA system in key countries like USA, China, Singapore, Germany, Netherlands, France, Denmark and Sweden.

This is where the IBA system comes in offering an automated and environment friendly cleaning solution to all involved in the handling of ship containers i.e.. The key benefits of IBA are the high grade of automation; the environment and health friendliness; the high capacity and high quality cleaning and last but not least the cost effectiveness!

When exposed to the IBA system the response from the target audience (shipping companies, ports, port service providers, goods importers and exporters) has been overwhelming and thus confirmed the significant market interest for the system. Though not available for sale the pre-launch activities have generated an impressive number of industry contacts, prospects and sales leads.

Final technical adaptation and verification of the system at customer locations are now being finalised. The IBA system is ready for market launch.

To ensure a successful market entry the present owners now have decided to sell the IBA system business to a company in the field willing to put relevant competence and resources behind a full market launch of IBA. For an investor/industrial company in the actual field the IBA system represents a business opportunity with significant international revenue potential.

For further information please contact Kent R Olsson – kent.olsson@exitpartner.se.

Source: Port Technology International