26 January 2018 is World Customs Day and this year the theme of the annual celebration is creating ‘A secure business environment for economic development’.
We spoke to three customs experts about what a ‘secure business environment’ looks like, what we as international traders can do to contribute to it, and the challenges we face in creating it.
Arne Mielken, Young President of the Institute of Export & International Trade
International business requires Customs authorities to be law enforcers, protectors, trade facilitators and business supporters - they do much more than just collect money. We need a genuine customs-to-business partnership in the 21st century and this needs to be taken seriously every day of the year.
We need customs authorities to focus on implementing the WTO trade facilitation agreement so that customs rules are transparent and available in English. How come the UK Trade Tariff and the EU Tariff can be so easily accessed but the Georgian or Iranian Tariffs are a nightmare to locate? Customs can make a real contribution to a secure business environment by facilitating the movement of goods and people and publishing all the rules and regulations quickly.
The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement needs to be implemented by as many WTO members as possible – as soon as possible! While there are good Customs rules and transparency in the EU and US, what about a transparency portal for customs regulations & processes for Africa or the CIS countries? Business needs to know what rules apply, when and how, otherwise the opportunities of international trade become harder to grasp.
In terms of Brexit transparency is again key. What rules will apply post Brexit? We need to know and fast. Businesses certainly cannot wait for negotiators to come to a conclusion in 2019. Businesses have strategies and finance budgets for 2019 and beyond that they need to agree already, so a secure business environment in the UK & EU must be created by agreeing the rules no later than the summer 2018.
Customs professionals must also be provided with continuous training! Customs professionals must keep up-to-date with regulatory changes and be able to analayze the impact that these have on a business. Staying abreast with what’s going on will help to contribute to a more stable business environment.
Next, I would translate these into safe and stable processes and procedures that are robust enough to address possible compliance issues. Finally, there needs to be some form of controls and checks to ensure that practical custom competences exist and are constantly expanded so that the processes and procedures are fit for purpose. Some form of regular internal audit with gap analysis and remediation would help to create a more secure business environment. Of course, one way this could be archived is by encouraging more businesses to attain AEO status.
For many companies and individuals the IOE’s Diploma in World Customs Compliance and Regulation is the best starting point for ensuring they have the skills needed to navigate this environment properly.
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