Archives For Trade facilitation

Ghana
Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr. Carlos Ahenkorah, says Ghana a signatory to the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement is too small a country to have two Single Window operators.

He challenged the pioneer and only single window operator, Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet) to speedily re-double its efforts in actualising the full breadth of Single Window operations in the country.

He recalled GCNet’s drive to automate trade facilitation and port clearance processes in the country and the difference that brought to trade and port operators.

He praised the Ghana Integrated Cargo Clearance Systems (GICCS) deployed by GCNet as efficient and robust enough to deliver on any valuation needs and address any bottlenecks in the overall clearance systems at the ports to deepen trade facilitation and enhance revenue mobilisation.

He noted that GCNet had taken too long in securing the manifest, the seed document in clearance processes at the ports from source, a situation that may have encouraged other operators to exploit the loophole to try to secure that right from the International Air Transport Association.

The Deputy Trade Minister, however, noted that if GCNet had connected Maersk Lines to transmit its manifest into the Ghana Customs Management System (GCMS) over the past three years then there was no way that it could not oblige other carriers to emulate that example and ensure that both air and sea manifest are transmitted expeditiously.

He also urged GRA (Customs Division) as the statutory body to assist GCNet to get all other carriers to do so with dispatch going forward.

Mr. Ahenkorah also charged GCNet to remain committed to their tenets of innovation and service delivery and work harder to expand the scope of its TradeNet Single Window platforms in order to ward off any superfluous and duplicitous competition.

On his part, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Shippers Authority, Dr. Kofi Mbiah, challenged Government to be bold to speedily resolve critical issues militating against the full actualisation of Single Window implementation in the country.

He said Ghana having been acknowledged as a pioneer in Single Window operations by international bodies like the World Bank and a number of countries having undertaking familiarization visits to Ghana to learn about the GCNet experience.

Dr. Mbiah noted that in as much as there was the need for collaboration between GCNet and other operators, it was also extremely important to define the parameters of engagement to create a level playing field for all players in the trade facilitation and revenue mobilisation eco-system.

Welcoming guests earlier to the event, the Executive Chairman of GCNet, Dr. Nortey Omaboe, noted that as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) conceived since its inception, the model over time had proved to be the most effective way of executing such a national mandate to support revenue mobilisation by Government, foster trade facilitation and enhance business competitiveness.

Dr. Omaboe observed that Government’s quest for increased revenue in an environment of reduced taxes to stimulate private sector growth meant greater focus on GCNet to come up with new initiatives to support revenue mobilisation efforts.

He, therefore, outlined a number of initiatives that GCNet had proposed to Government to enhance revenue mobilization.

These include the need to improve upon the valuation of consignments, the need to invoke bonds for transit goods that do not exit the country after 14 days and the review of the paltry charges currently imposed, ensuring that warehoused goods are ex-warehoused within the stipulated time periods.

Also, tighter control of free zone operations and the duty and tax exemptions granted thereon, the assignment of all newly registered taxpayers to relevant GRA Tax Offices and ensuring they file tax returns, etc.

Dr. Omaboe however expressed concerned about non-clarity in the role of some entrants in the trade facilitation and revenue mobilisation space following the cessation of the destination inspection companies and called for urgent steps to address the worrying development; and its inherent duplications and hence unnecessary cost to Government.

He was confident that what he termed ‘unnecessary complication’ would eventually be resolved mindful of the consideration that the interest of the country should remain paramount and be protected.

Dr. Omaboe assured guests that GCNet was poised for further growth and development in the years ahead as it leverages upon its continuous innovations in deploying systems that bring greater value to the Government and people of Ghana. Source: Ghana News Agency, Two Single Window Operators too much for Ghana, April 19, 2017

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The WCO Private Sector Consultative Group (PSCG) met for the 41st time at the WCO headquarters on 3 and 4 July 2017. The meeting was chaired by Mr. John Mein from PROCOMEX and attended by representatives from 17 of the 21 PSCG members – AAEI, BMW, CATERPILLAR, E-BAY, FIATA, FONASBA, FONTERRA, GEA, HAIER, HUAWEI, IATA, ICC, IFCBA, MICROSOFT, OPORA, PROCOMEX and SAAFF.

During their two-day meeting, the PSCG discussed a number of very topical matters and developments, including current threats of protectionism to free trade, the state of trade facilitation and the implementation of the WTO TFA agreement and e-commerce. WCO members also attended part of the meeting and presented current WCO work programmes, including the upcoming review of the Revised Kyoto Convention and encouraged PSCG members to take an active role in this review work. The Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya, also addressed the PSCG on its first day on issues relating to the current state of international trade.

Following the PSCG meeting, a dialogue between Policy Commission and PSCG members including Trade Observers was held to discuss current challenges with regard to free trade and globalization.  During break-out groups representatives from both the Customs administrations and private sector discussed the current problem landscape and what the international Customs community can do in collaboration with the private sector to support economic and social development and growth through the application of trade facilitation principles and measures. Source: WCO

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 13.18.00The recent WCO publication of a Study Report on E-Commerce is based on a short survey answered by the Organization’s Members. The Report compiles Customs administrations’ practices as well as their ongoing and/or future initiatives related to the processing of cross-border low-value e-commerce.

Current practices, issues and challenges as well as initiatives and potential solutions are presented in each of the survey sections: Facilitation; Risk Management; Data Exchange/Cooperation with E-Commerce Operators; Control and Enforcement; Revenue Collection. Case studies are also widely used throughout the document to illustrate specific practices.

The survey was undertaken as part of the WCO Work Plan on Cross-Border E-Commerce aimed at addressing cross-cutting issues in relation to e-commerce and coming up with practical solutions for the facilitated clearance of low-value shipments, including appropriate duty/tax collection mechanisms and control procedures.

An overview of the WCO’s work so far, including tools, reports and interim recommendations issued by the WCO Working Group on E-Commerce (WGEC), as well as work to be completed in the future, is available here. Source: WCO

WTO LogoThe WTO announced that the following countries have submitted their instruments of acceptance to the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA):

  • 104. Ghana (4 January 2017)
  • 105. Mozambique (6 January 2017)
  • 106. St. Vincent and the Grenadines (9 January 2017)

Only four more ratifications from members are needed to bring the TFA into force. The TFA will enter into force once two-thirds of the WTO membership has formally accepted the Agreement.

China Customs EmblemAudit firm KPMG reports that the General Administration of Customs (GAC) will reform the existing customs clearance procedure for imported goods, according to a GAC Circular on Carrying out Pilot Reform of Tax Collection and Administration Procedure issued on 29 October 2016. Under the current procedure, review of the customs declaration is required before goods are released. This reform is designed to further guide import and export enterprises to be self-disciplined and law-abiding, with the principle stated as “honesty and observance of the law brings convenience; dishonesty and irregularity leads to punishment” to improve customs clearance efficiency.

Content of pilot reform  includes the following elements:

Independent customs declaration and tax payment – when importing goods, enterprises should submit customs declarations truthfully and accurately in advance, calculate tax payable and surcharges and handle payment-related procedures on their own.

Review of elements relating to tax calculation after release of goods  – generally, goods will be released after enterprises complete the customs declarations and tax payment procedures on their own. Afterwards, the customs authority will spot-check and review the valuation, classification and origin of the imported goods of the enterprises. In special cases, the authority will inspect the customs declaration in advance.

Proactive disclosure scheme After release of goods – enterprises are encouraged to report to the authorities in writing if they are aware of any of their own violations against customs regulations. Enterprises which the customs authority believes to be voluntary disclosers of their own irregularities will be less punished or free from punishment. For enterprises which have disclosed their irregularities and paid back taxes proactively, late fees can be reduced or eliminated.

For more details access the KPMG report here! Source: KPMG

nrcsThe National Regulator of Compulsory Specifications (NRCS), in its battle to protect the country from non-compliant goods whilst facilitating trade, advises that it intends rolling out a pilot programme aimed at cutting delays in the issuance of Letters of Authority (LOA).

The intention is to categorise risk, thereby ensuring that applications from compliant importers will be fast tracked i.e.: the letters of authority will be processed in 21 days or less. Companies in the ‘low risk’ category will, however, be subjected to heavy penalties should they not meet the requirements.

The proposal the NRCS intends presenting to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will reflect three categories of risk: low, medium and high. It is expected that NRCS will rollout its pilot study in the last 6 months of the year, before officially launching the programme early next year. Companies earmarked to participate in the pilot study will be identified by mid-June. Source: Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys – Taryn Hunkin

Namibian Trade PortalThe Namibia’s Ministry of Finance and Namibia’s Customs & Excise, in partnership with the U.S. government has recently launched a powerful new tool to increase and facilitate cross-border trade. The “Namibia Trade Information Portal” is a web-based platform that provides an authoritative “one-stop shop” of readily accessible trade, customs and compliance information. It is designed to significantly reduce the time and effort required for local and international traders to access current information and documentation required for doing business. The portal is the culmination of many years of collaboration between government of Namibia agencies and ministries and the U.S. government, working through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Southern Africa Trade Hub Project.

In his keynote address, Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein said that the Trade Portal reflects the commitment of the Namibian government to build a “robust, knowledge-based society” through various modernization projects. However, he cautioned that the portal must be kept up-to-date if it is to be sustainable and relevant.

“For this reason, I strongly appeal to my fellow and counterpart ministers to designate focal points in their ministries who shall administer and avail timely updates, preferably online transmission of such information to our designated team in the Ministry of Finance who will, in turn, keep the portal updated,” Schlettwein said.

According to Namibia Trade Information Portal’s project manager, Melannie Tjijenda, the portal will save people time when they enquire about trade-related matters, so they will no longer be sent ‘from office to office.’

“International traders will now know how they can invest in Namibia,” she said, adding that this will save money on expenses like phone calls.

Tjijenda said the fact that most government websites are not regularly updated will not be the case with this portal. “When something changes, we will update it” she said, further pointing out that they have a team of content managers who will be checking and updating the content on regular basis. Source: The Namibian/USAID

Secretary General of the WCO, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, welcomes  delegates to what is now one of WCO’s premium external events bringing together representatives of the software industry and Customs policy makers.

Secretary General of the WCO, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, welcomes delegates to what is now one of WCO’s premium external events bringing together representatives of the software industry and Customs policy makers.

The 14th annual WCO IT Conference & Exhibition was officially opened on 6 May 2015 in Freeport (Bahamas). Senior Government representatives of The Bahamas Government opened the 3-day Conference in the presence of over 400 participants from 75 countries.

The Right Honorouble Perry Gladstone Christie, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas thanked the WCO for choosing The Bahamas for this very important global Conference. The hosting of this WCO event is an example of the government’s commitment to bring business opportunities to Grand Bahama!

The Prime Minister further continued by reminding the delegates that the WTO concluded negotiations on a Trade Facilitation Agreement at the Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013 and about its potential of reducing international trade costs of approximately 12%. He underlined that the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement owes much to the technical work that had already been carried out at the World Customs Organization.

In his speech, the Prime Minister stressed: “Our efforts are very much consistent with the theme of this Conference “Inclusiveness Through Information Technology”. It is in our interest here in The Bahamas to pursue an inclusive approach to the introduction of the new IT systems. These new systems must bring benefits, not only to government, but also to commercial operators and to the general public who will use these services. We recognize that with the introduction of these IT systems we must adopt a more client focused and customer orientated approach to make it easier to conduct business.”

The Secretary General of the WCO, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, welcomed the delegates to what is now one of WCO’s premium external events bringing together representatives of the software industry and Customs policy makers. The Secretary General emphasized the theme of this year’s Conference “Inclusiveness Through Information Technologies”, adding that it addresses three key priorities of the WCO Members – Implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, Regional Economic Integration and Coordinated Border Management.

Mr. Charles Turner, Comptroller of Customs and Excise Department of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, stressed that the IT Conference & Exhibition comes at an important juncture for The Bahamas as the Customs Department implements the Trade Sector Support Program. Having such a broad range of exhibitors and international delegates provides a rare opportunity to share ideas and learn from the experiences of others. Source: WCO

international-trade1The role of the private sector in the implementation of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) will be the focus of the 2015 edition of the Global Facilitation Partnership for Transportation and Trade (GFP) meeting. With the world’s customs administrations currently identifying their respective TFA  implementation commitments and setting up National Trade Facilitation Committees, trade and logistics operators can learn how they can participate in such initiatives by attending these sessions.

The GFP meeting will be held at Palais des Nations, Geneva, on 22 April, and will be divided into three thematic sessions.

The first session, ‘Governments’ Priorities: Strategies for Fostering Private Sector Participation in the TFA Implementation Process’ will look at how governments are planning to implement the TFA.

It will focus on how the private sector is consulted and how an effective participation of the private sector can be facilitated to implement the Agreement.

The second session, ‘Priorities, Perspectives, and Expectations from the Private Sector on TFA Implementation’ will assess how the private sector – including large corporates and small and medium-sized enterprises – view TFA implementation. It will look at the potential benefits from a private-sector perspective, and how the sector can contribute to national and international initiatives to implement the agreement.

The third session, ‘International Organizations’ Co-ordination and Partnership for Supporting TFA Implementation’, will provide an opportunity to share information and experiences on how the TFA can be implemented with public-private partnerships in mind, as how national trade facilitation committees can better support this process.

ITC invites all interested stakeholders to join the GFP meeting at the Palais des Nations on 22 April from 9:00. Click here for link to online registration.

Source: International Trade Centre (Geneva)

Ivory Coast SEW2As Customs and Border regulatory authorities ramp up their commitment to international agreements, such as the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention, SAFE Framework of Standards and the more recent WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, more countries will offer a single point of entry through which traders, international carriers and logistics providers can access and comply with the resident customs and other government regulatory regimes.

The concept of a Single Window is borne out of the fact that traditional import/export and related regulatory requirements pose a barrier to market entry for international goods. There are many derivatives of Single Window in operation globally. Perhaps the best resource for this can be found on the UNECE’s interactive Trade Facilitation Implementation Guide webpage. One can navigate to the case studies page to read up on a country-by-country experience on various trade reforms including Single Window developments.

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is one of many African countries who have introduced Single Window as a facilitation measure whereby international trade can interface with Customs in a number of ways. It consists of a web-based trade portal (operated by Webb Fontaine) which interfaces with AsycudaWorld (AW), Côte d’Ivoire Customs’ management system. The portal allows traders to key-in advance import/export information within an electronic document called TVF (Trade Virtual Folder). Customs declarations are then subjected to tariff classification  and valuation, thereafter routed for commercial/risk assessment and revenue accounting on AsycudaWorld, or Sydam World as it is known in Côte d’Ivoire.

Commercial banks use the TVF within the Single Window to endorse the settlement of each import; the Ministry of Commerce subsequently authorizes the overall transaction through the system.

The Single Window provides an entry point for traders and supply chain operators to accomplish various Customs formalities such as –

  • Customs Declaration processing – allowing importers and exporters to electronically file clearances.
  • Manifest operations – used by all carriers to upload their XML manifests and register the same through the trade portal directly into AsycudaWorld. The facility also allows the amendments of waybills (e.g. excess and shortages) and automatically synchronizes the operations with the AW system. The Port Authority IT systems, including the Port of Abidjan and the Port of San Pedro, automatically receive and integrate the manifests submitted by carriers.
  • License module – allows traders to request import/export licenses (regulatory permits) that are later on approved online by the relevant ministries. Each license comprises a list of regulated products, quota allowable amount based on a predefined scheme (gross mass, net mass, FOB, Unit of measurement or unlimited quota). Further developments will include the automatic write-off of license quota by declarations using the Declaration module.

Source: Webb Fontaine

20140827%20154452At the invitation of the “Institut de l’Entreprise” in the framework of its programme “Entretiens Enseignants-Entreprises”, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya spoke at the Summer University’s conference entitled “La croissance en question(s)” (growth into question(s)) in the Veolia Campus, Jouy-le-Moutier, France on 27 August 2014.

Supported by the French ministry of Education and the Council of Economic Analysis, this forum gives the opportunity to high school teachers in economics and social sciences to exchange views with the business world. It also provides them with an opportunity to update their knowledge on current economic issues benefiting from the attendance of renowned economists and prominent business leaders.

260 High school teachers participated in the event and listened to a panel session on poverty reduction during which Secretary General Mikuriya explained the contribution of Customs through enhancing connectivity at the borders to secure and facilitate global supply chain. They were eager to understand how the WCO and Customs could play a significant role in trade facilitation to convey the messages to their classrooms. Source: WCO

First WCO ESA Regional Workshop on Resource Mobilization

First WCO ESA Regional Workshop on Resource Mobilization

The WCO and the ESA Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB ESA), in cooperation with the Kenyan Revenue Authority, organized the first WCO ESA Regional Workshop on Resource Mobilization in Mombasa, Kenya from 19 to 23 May 2014. This workshop was one of the regional key activities in 2014 under the WCO-ESA Project ‘Building Trade Capacity through Customs Modernization in the East and Southern Africa” funded by the Finnish Government.

This workshop was also part of the ongoing efforts of the WCO and the ROCB ESA in supporting Customs Administrations to enhance engagement with development partners for their reform and modernization programmes. Previously, the WCO and the ROCB ESA had organized the first Regional Meeting on Donor Engagement in March 2012 in Mauritius, which provided Members in the ESA region with the opportunity to enhance their understanding of partnership with development partners. The workshop in Kenya was a follow-up on the event in 2012, enabling participating Members to address needs in the field of Resource Mobilization which are essential for subsequent Capacity Building / Customs Reform and Modernization processes at regional and national level. The workshop was facilitated by Ms. Heike Barczyk, WCO Deputy Director Capacity Building, Ms. Sigfridur Gunnlaugsdottir, WCO expert from Iceland Customs, and Ms. Riitta Passi, Project Manager within the Finnish-funded project.

A total of 25 participants from 17 ESA regional members took part in the workshop. Participants developed first draft business cases/project proposals that could in the future lead to potential real Capacity Building projects. Reflecting on the current Customs environment, the workshop equally addressed the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (ATF), potential interest from development partners in supporting countries with its implementation and how to best reflect this in respective interaction with those partners including how to address the respective alignment in the different steps towards developing a written project proposal. The workshop is expected to further enhance the collaboration between Customs administrations and development partners for the successful implementation of Customs reform and modernization.

The WCO, the ROCB ESA and participating Members agreed to continue to work together in this regard. Source: WCO – article provided by Ms. Riitta Passi, Project Manager, Nairobi.

WCO Customs Theme 2014Following a theme of logical progression over the past few years, the WCO has introduced “Communication” as this year’s theme for the 170+ Customs Administrations around the world. Last year’s theme “Innovation” set the platform for the introduction of innovative ideas and business practices, new partnerships, as well as new solutions and technologies.

While still very much in its infancy, the WCO’s Globally Networked Customs (GNC) philosophy will undoubtedly gain more and more traction as administrations iron out their national and regional aspirations and objectives.

The recent agreement on Trade Facilitation at the WTO’s conference in Bali adds further credence to the importance of the principles of the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC). For the first time we see an attempt to fuse customs principles into a package of binding requirements.

Now, more than ever, Customs needs to work ‘collaboratively’ with all stakeholders.

With Customs and Border Agencies etching out new legal requirements, as well as organisational structures and plans, trade practitioners will likewise have to keep a watchful eye on these developments. Sometimes, not necessarily just for their own needs and obligations in their domestic markets, traders need to ensure that they keep apace with ‘destination’ Customs requirements which in these modern times are all too frequent. By opening its door to the business community, the WCO plays an ever-increasing overarching role in providing the private sector a ‘window’ to its thinking and ideology.

AmatiThirty-one countries belong currently to the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries: 15 are located in Africa, 12 in Asia, 2 in Latin America and 2 in Central and Eastern Europe. The lack of territorial access to the sea poses persistent challenges to growth and development of these countries and has been the main factor hindering their ability to better integrate in the global trading system. The transit of export and import goods through the territory of at least one neighboring State and the frequent change of mode of transport result in high transaction costs and reduced international competitiveness.

For more details on LLDCs visit – Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs)

The 2003 Almaty Programme of Action highlighted the link between the ability of LLDCs to harness their trade potential and the state of the transport infrastructure and the efficiency of trade facilitation measures in neighboring transit countries and called for international support in favor of LLDCs. The United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 66/214 of 22 December 2011 and resolution 67/222 of 3 April 2013 decided to hold a Comprehensive Ten-Year Review Conference of the Almaty Programme of Action in 2014 with a view to formulating and adopting a renewed development partnership framework for LLDCs for the next decade.

It is expected that the ten-year review will provide an opportunity for: (i) assessing progress made in establishing efficient transit transport systems in landlocked developing countries since the adoption of APoA in August 2003, and particularly after the midterm review of 2008; and (ii) agreeing on actions needed to sustain achievements and address challenges in overcoming the special problems of landlocked developing countries around the world.

It would appear that this programme very much supports the creation of inland ports connected to the seaports by means of secure and bonded facilities – within the ambit international law, i.e. WTO (Trade Facilitation Agreement) and the WCO (Revised Kyoto Convention). The question arises as to whether an inland port located in Botswana, Zimbabwe or any adjoining country be able to demand such rights where a ‘corridor’ country or country providing international seaport access to LLDCs does not observe or accept international transit principles?

Related articles

Picture2The International Trade Centre has prepared a guide to help businesses take advantage of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. The agreement simplifies customs procedures, allowing businesses to become more competitive. This jargon-free guide explains the provisions with a focus on what businesses need to know to take advantage of the agreement. It will also help policy makers identify their needs for technical assistance to implement and monitor it. To download the guide – click the following link: http://www.intracen.org/wto-trade-facilitation-agreement-business-guide-for-developing-countries/.

For instance, the guide explains how the article on ‘Advance rulings’ aims to address problems with inconsistent classification of goods by customs officials and the uncertainty it creates for traders. ‘Advance rulings are binding decisions by customs…on the classification and origin of the goods in preparation for importation or exportation. Advance rulings facilitate the declaration and consequently the release and clearance process, as the classification has already been determined in the advance ruling and is binding to all customs officers for a period of time,’ the guide explains. It goes on to list in jargon-free language the obligations and the procedure imposed on customs authorities related to advance rulings.

Reducing the on-the-spot decision making authority of individual customs agents thanks to advance rulings will also reduce bribery, the guide says. Corruption continues to be a key problem for developing-country exporters, who identified it as a major constraint on exports in a recent survey conducted by ITC.

The last chapter of the guide describes how the agreement will be implemented, including the special and differential treatment provisions that developing countries may invoke. Developing countries will be able to link the implementation of the commitments to technical assistance and support from donors. WTO member states will have to explicitly apply for delays for each commitment, which will need to be approved by the WTO and the implementation schedule published.

Source: International Trade Centre