CSME– as EU rep stresses need for common customs policyBy Jarryl BryanLocally-hosted consultations bringing together top customs officials from across the Caribbean to consider the implementation of a single regional policy governing customs systems got underway on Tuesday at the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Secretariat.Representative of the EU delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Adam WisniewskiAmong the topics that will be covered is the Automated Systems for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), long touted by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) as its e-service and modernisation saviour.In his address to delegates, representative of the European Union (EU) delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Adam Wisniewski, conveyed the EU’s commitment to providing technical assistance to the Region. The EU itself is well known for being a contemporary example of regional integration.“The EU has been the lead partner of the [African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States] ACP-EU trade programme. Behind each of the projects, there are indications that the programme is still appreciated by the beneficiaries. One of its most unique features is the technical assistance it brings to the Region.”“The developing of common import procedures, declarations, and customs valuation procedures is an important step towards regional economic integration, strengthening the Region as a global economic player and significantly contributing to its inclusion in global value chains.”He contended that this was also a step in the right direction towards achieving a single economic market – one of the reasons Caricom was formed in the first place. He noted that this would increase the Region’s viability towards the EU and other trade partners.Assistant GRA Commissioner with responsibility for Customs, Shawn RichmondBut despite the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which was signed in 2008, Wisniewski noted instances where provisions to foster regional integration were still not being implemented.“Although much has been achieved, there are still certain shortfalls, specifically in the case of the Region. Countries still have to ratify the agreement. Some provisions to promote regional integration are still to be put into practice. And rules on competition, policing intellectual property stealing are still to be implemented,” he pointed out.“Our expectation and hope are that this and other similar projects will not only contribute to the overall goal, but will also strengthen the dynamics of the already present in the Region. Workshops like this can no doubt serve this purpose.”The EU reportedly funded the project at the behest of the ACP Group of states. The workshop will also provide customs valuation training; participants are expected to discuss this concept, learn the methods of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) valuation system, and how to apply these principles.Guyana’s representative at the horseshoe table, Assistant GRA Commissioner with responsibility for Customs, Shawn Richmond, gave an update on the country’s progress with ASYCUDA.Representatives of customs administrations from across the Region pose for a group photo outside the Caricom Secretariat“Guyana is currently implementing ASYCUDA worldwide. Should we agree on a standard or a module for the SAD (Single Administrative Document), we would be the first to implement that. So, the workshop would be very useful in that regard,” Richmond said.ASYCUDAASYCUDA World is intended to replace the Total Revenue Integrated Processing System (TRIPS) GRA used for some time. The GRA has expressed expectations that it would improve efficiency and effectiveness in the trade environment, specifically as it relates to customs clearance.ASYCUDA World is a recognised Internet-based software system used in several Caribbean territories. Besides simplifying procedures and minimising administrative costs, the GRA has said the system would allow a paperless environment, facilitate e-payments, improve its risk management capacity, and connect with allied agencies.Among the other benefits that were touted were a reduction in processing time of customs documentation and the quick release of imported and exported goods. Earlier this year, the GRA had embarked on a round of sensitisation seminars with key trade stakeholders in the lead-up to the official launch of ASYCUDA World.This consultation had involved the ASYCUDA National Project Team (ANPT) of the GRA, together with its consultants from the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), facilitating a seminar for freight carriers and their agents at the Authority’s Camp Street headquarters.As the facilitators had already requested shippers, wharf owners, and agents to submit advance cargo manifests in electronic format, the seminar was specific to the manifest module of ASYCUDA World and the mandatory fields associated with the module.