One of the principles behind ASEAN is the promotion of trade among its member countries. To this end, the organization seeks to promote and facilitate trade through customs cooperation among member countries.
ASEAN Single Window for Imports. During the last Informal ASEAN Economic Meeting (AEM) held in Yogayakarta, Indonesia, January 19-20, 2004, the ministers agreed to facilitate the establishment of the ASEAN Single Window, which aims to ensure the expeditious clearance of imports through single submission of data, single data processing and single decision-making for the release of imported goods.
More importantly, an ASEAN inter-agency Task Force comprising of representatives from relevant government agencies (e.g. trade, agriculture, customs and those responsible for standards and conformance) was created to design the single window for imports.
Harmonization of Customs Rules and Procedures. In the last five years, we have seen intense efforts by ASEAN to harmonize customs rules and procedures. In particular, member countries have cooperated in the following areas:
- Harmonization of tariff nomenclature
- Harmonization of customs procedures and formalities
- Implementation of the WTO Agreement on Customs Valuation
- Implementation of the Post Clearance Audit
- Establishment of customs automation
Most member countries have already implemented the WTO Agreement on Custom Valuation. The Post Clearance Audit itself has already been applied by the member countries to expedite customs clearance and to safeguard revenue collection. By this time, an ASEAN post clearance guideline and blueprint should have been completed. Similarly, most of the member countries would have implemented the ASEAN Harmonized Tariff Nomenclature (AHTN) by January of this year.
The Philippines itself implemented the new customs valuation system in January 2000. Thereafter, it enacted the law on Post Entry Audit with effect on June 2001. In regards to the AHTN, the Tariff Commission has unofficially announced that copies of the AHTN will already be available by end of February 2004.
AFTA-CEPT Rules of Origin. In relation to the rules of origin applicable for availing of special rates under AFTA-CEPT for intra-ASEAN import and export, a Task Force on CEPT-AFTA Rules of Origin is currently working on improving and strengthening the CEPT rules of origin and its operational procedures. Among the measures being proposed are:
- standardizing the calculation of local/ASEAN content;
- adoption of the substantial transformation rule (as an alternative rule in determining product origin for sectors that cannot comply with the 40% local/ASEAN content rule);
- identifying measures to prevent circumvention of the CEPT Rules of Origin;
- addressing problems in the issuance and processing of Certification of Origin Form D; and
- adopting specific rules of origin for specific sectors (e.g. automotive and semi-finished aluminum products).
Accession to the Revised Kyoto Convention. In November 2002, an exercise was conducted among member countries to identify the level of compatibility of ASEAN customs legislation with standards and recommended practices of the Revised Kyoto Convention. Preparations are now being made for accession of all member countries to the convention.
Product Standards and Conformity Assessment. To further accelerate efforts to harmonize product standards, member countries have agreed on a Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) in five sectors: (1) electrical and electronic equipment; (2) telecommunication equipment; (3) cosmetics; (4) pharmaceuticals; and (5) prepared foodstuff. Two MRAs have been signed, namely: electrical and electronic equipment; and cosmetics.
Liberalization of Air Freight Services. On September 19, 2002, the ASEAN Senior Transport Officials/Director-Generals of Civil Aviation signed the ASEAN Memorandum of Understanding on Air Freight Services. As a first step to the full liberalization of air freight services, the memorandum allows designated airlines of each ASEAN member country to operate all-cargo (with 3rd and 4th freedom air traffic rights) services up to 100 tons weekly with no limitation on frequency and aircraft type.
Tomorrow – A Borderless ASEAN. From a macro perspective, the efforts to facilitate trade and provide full market access among ASEAN member countries can be seen as part of the whole process of economic integration. In last year’s Ninth ASEAN Summit held in Bali, Indonesia, leaders of the member countries agreed to establish an ASEAN Economic Community.
While 2020 may seem quite far, real efforts are being made to slowly make ASEAN a single market and production base, allowing the free flow of goods, services, investments, capital and skilled labor. Specifically, with the continued harmonization of rules and procedures governing the movement of goods across borders, it will just be soon when trading among ASEAN countries become an effortless and seamless activity, from the country of export to the country of destination.
The author is an international trade and customs consultant, and a licensed customs broker. He is also a partner of the law firm of David Leabres Uvero Gaticales Mosquera Samson. For your comments, he may be contacted at email@example.com or at (632) 4002145 / 4050021.