Harmonised approaches to conducting trade across borders in the Caribbean, and effective customs valuation, are among the steps that must be taken towards full economic integration within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General, Trade and Economic Integration, Mr. Joseph Cox, said on Monday that harmonised laws, procedures and best practices would increase the predictability with intra-regional movement of goods under the CARICOM Single Market and within the context of the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
He was at the time addressing the opening ceremony of a three-day regional workshop targetting Customs officials from across Caribbean Forum of African Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM) member states. The workshop on the Single Administrative Document (SAD) and Customs Valuation, is aimed at building capacity in CARIFORUM. The sessions are being held at the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana.
The Workshop is being facilitated by Mr. Paul Hilaire, Team Leader, and Mr. Martin Wilde, Customs expert and is part of a Project under the ACP TradeCom II Programme funded by the European Union. It has as one of its outcomes, the development of a regional SAD pursuant to Chapter 4 of the EPA, and capacity-building, which requires the promotion of regional integration, and the progressive development of systems to facilitate the electronic exchange of data among traders, customs administrators and related agencies and the implementation of a CARIFORUM SAD.
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Mr. Cox said at the opening that trade facilitation was high on the Region’s agenda.
“As the trading environment continues to evolve, and as the Community seeks to deepen the integration process, trade facilitation has shifted to a higher level of priority on the regional trade agenda”, he said.
Providing a synopsis of steps that the Region had taken so far, the Assistant Secretary-General pointed out that with the Community’s approval of model Harmonised Customs Bill and Regulations in September 2016, work had advanced to develop a CARICOM Customs Procedure Manual. With the signing last month of a Memorandum of Understanding between the CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque and the Secretary-General of the World Customs Union, His Excellency Kunio Mikuriya, the Region was positioning itself to become significant players in the future landscape of trade with Europe, he said. The MOU places emphasis on training coordination, cooperation, and capacity-building.
Study recommended SAD development
A study that was conducted in preparation for the implementation of the EPA recommended the development of SAD. The study assessed the state of readiness of the customs administrations in CARIFORUM States. The CARICOM Secretariat began work to develop the SAD in 2010. The SAD is to be used to prepare customs declarations in their EPA and other trading arrangements.
In his remarks, the Assistant Secretary-General also placed emphasis on customs valuations in the Region and the mobilising resources to confront those challenges, including revenue leakage.
“Our encounters with regional customs authorities suggest that non-compliance among traders to declare true and correct values is the single biggest cause of revenue leakage, with a conservative estimate of 20% of projected revenue being lost. Our expectation from this workshop is that you the participants will develop a clear understanding of how to put into practice, policy guidelines that are effective at reducing revenue leakage”, he said.
Mr. Adam Wisniewski, First Secretary, Trade Affairs Manager, European Union Delegation to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, the OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM, also spoke at the opening ceremony.
He pointed out that the EU was the main partner in the ACP TradeCom II Programme which focuses on economic integration. He said the harmonisation of customs procedures was a very important step towards concretising regional economic integration and inclusion in the global trading arena. He lauded the progress made but cautioned that there were still areas that needed to be addressed.
About 30 stakeholders are attending the workshop.
Participation in the Workshop was funded, in part, from resources under the 10th European Development Fund Programme of Support for Wider Caribbean Cooperation – Regional Technical Facility.