Introduction

1. The Sixth Meeting of the ASEAN Directors-General of Customs was held in Jakarta, Indonesia on 26-27 February 1 998.

2. The Meeting was attended by Y.A.M. Pengiran Lela Cheteria Sahibon Najabah Pengiran Anak Haji Abdul Aziz bin Pengiran Jaya Negara Pengiran Haji Abu Bakar, Controller of Customs and Excise, Royal Customs and Excise Department, Brunei Darussalam; Mr. Soehardjo, Director-General of Customs and Excise, Directorate-General of Customs and Excise, Indonesia; Dr. Sayphet Aphayvanh, Deputy Director-General of Customs, Lao PDR; Dato’ Ahmad Padzli Bin Mohyiddin, Director-General of Customs, Royal Customs and Excise, Malaysia; U Tun Chun, Director-General of Customs, Myanmar; Mr. Licerio C. Evangelista, Deputy Commissioner, Bureau of Customs, Philippines; Mr. Koh Chong Hwa, Director-General of Customs and Excise, Customs and Excise Department, Singapore; Mr. Somchainuk Engtrakul, Director-General, Customs Department, Thailand; Mr. Nguyen Van Cam, Deputy Director-General, General Department of Vietnam Customs; and their respective delegations. Dr. Suthad Setboonsarng, Deputy Secretary-General and members of the ASEAN Secretariat were also in attendance.

3. The Meeting was chaired by Mr. Soehardjo, Director-General of Customs and Excise, Indonesia.

4. In the Opening Ceremony, H.E. Rodolfo C. Severino Jr., Secretary-General of ASEAN delivered his Opening Remarks. The Keynote Address was delivered for H.E. Mar’ie Muhammad, Minister of Finance, Indonesia by the Hon. Dr. Dono lskandar Djojosubroto, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Finance, Indonesia.

5. The Directors-General met to consider an appropriate customs response to the current economic turmoil in the region. They also met to review the progress in customs cooperation work in ASEAN since their last meeting in Brunei Darussalam on 22-23 May 1997, particularly to operationalise the ASEAN Customs Vision 2020 which they had formulated.

ASEAN Customs Commit to Intensify Cooperation Amidst Economic Crisis

6. ASEAN Customs Directors-General agreed to accelerate reforms as well as intensify cooperation amongst themselves, in response to the current economic turmoil in the region. Noting that customs played an important role in determining the competitiveness of both local and multinational companies in the face of globalisation and liberalisation, the Directors-General reaffirmed their commitment that customs should not represent an unnecessary burden to trade and that steps would be taken both nationally and regionally to ensure that confidence is maintained with the private sectors. The Directors-General were also of the view that there was a need to maintain a low cost and conducive business and investment environment in the region, to make ASEAN attractive to foreign investors as well as facilitate economic restructuring. This should be achieved by enhancing the ability of customs to achieve the dual objectives of trade facilitation through effective customs control and efficient revenue collection.

7. The Directors-General also noted that the ASEAN Leaders, at the Second Informal Summit in December 1 997 agreed that, as a response to the economic crisis intra-ASEAN trade should be promoted and the implementation of the ASEAN Free Trade Area accelerated. Noting the key role customs played in enhancing intra-ASEAN trade, the Directors-General agreed customs simplification work in ASEAN should be intensified.

8. To this end, the Directors-General expressed their resolve to undertake the following:

  1. further measures to increase intra-ASEAN trade, to deepen economic integration in the region and to create a conducive, cost-effective and pro-business environment for companies in the region, such as:

    1. expanding the Green Lane System to include all ASEAN products (CEPT and non-CEPT) which satisfy ASEAN or 9′ i in criteria;

    2. reducing clearance time by decreasing and/or simplifying the number of customs procedures required for products under the Green Lane;

    3. facilitating examination and enhancing pre-clearance of these products in the Green Lane;

    4. intensifying work on the creation of ASEAN customs procedures for goods in transit;

    5. accelerating the establishment of region-wide customs facilities which would be favourable for businesses e.g. regional transhipment procedures, duty drawbacks, free zones, periodic declarations for ASEAN companies etc.

  2. to further ensure transparency, predictability and consistency in the implementation of policies, CUSTOMS rulings/legislation, requirements and procedures;

  3. to further ensure effective and efficient implementation of policies at customs so that the twin goals of trade facilitation and revenue collection are adequately met;

  4. at the regional level, to accelerate the implementation of the ASEAN Customs Vision 2020. The Vision was formulated by the Directors-Generals at their last Meeting and formed part of the overall ASEAN Vision 2020. It sets out bold and far-reaching goals for customs by targeting “an ASEAN Customs Partnership for world class standards and excellence in efficiency, professionalism and service, and uniformity through harmonised procedures to promote trade and investments and to protect the health and well being of the community”;

  5. to accelerate on-going harmonisation activities particularly the harmonisation of tariff nomenclature, customs valuation and customs procedures.

9. In this regard, the Directors-General tasked their officers to work out the details above and report progress back to them.

Implementation Plans for ASEAN Customs Vision 2020 Take Shape

10. Substantial progress had been made to operationalise the ASEAN Customs Vision, formulated by the ASEAN Directors-General of Customs at their last meeting, Objectives and programmes of a Plan of Action had already been formulated by customs officials. The Directors-General directed that work be intensified in the formulation of a detailed Plan of Action so that implementation of the ASEAN Customs Vision can commence as soon as possible. The finalised Plan of Action is targeted for submission to the Sixth ASEAN Summit in Hanoi in December 1998.

11. The Vision sets out bold targets for 15 areas in customs, amongst them classification, cargo processing, valuation, automation, transit and temporary admission, – mutual assistance etc. Detailed policy implementation and work programmes are currently being developed by officials. The Plan of Action will be the main guiding document for ASEAN CUSTOMS cooperation in the next two decades.

Guidelines for Mutual Assistance to Combat Customs Fraud and Smuggling Adopted

12. Guidelines which enhance customs’ abilities for mutual assistance to detect customs fraud and smuggling activities had been adopted by the ASEAN Directors-General of Customs. The guidelines cover an exchange of information where they relate to an assessment of duties and taxes, customs controls, information on persons and vessels involved in smuggling as well as the smuggling of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. The Directors-General directed their officers to look into the operationalisation of the guidelines.

Dialogue with ASEAN Private Sectors Held

13. The Directors-General held a dialogue with representatives of the ASEAN Private Sector. Led by Mr. Setyanto P. Santosa, Secretary-General of the ASEAN Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the private sector representatives comprised various local and multinational companies, among them, General Electric, General Motors and Federal Express.

14. The Directors-General discussed, among others, the following:

  1. the private sectors informed that they will be proposing an ASEAN Carnet System to the ASEAN Directors-General of Customs;

  2. the Directors-General requested inputs from the ASEAN private sectors for the development of the Plan of Action on partnership with the business community under the ASEAN Customs Vision;

  3. noting that information gaps existed between customs and the private sectors on new customs facilities introduced and utilised, the Directors-General tasked the private sectors to look into developing internet-based mechanisms and seminars, wherein information on existing and new customs facilities could be provided.

15. The Directors-General reiterated the importance of active private sector participation in the ASEAN process as they viewed such a link as a close partnership. They further encouraged the ASEAN private sector to play a more active role by providing inputs or proposals to ASEAN, at national and regional levels, regularly.

16. In noting the fruitful discussions which ensued, the Directors-General agreed to invite the ASEAN private sectors to their next Meeting in 1999 for a third consultations to review the progress made.

Agreement to Develop ASEAN Customs Transit System Achieved

17. The Directors-General agreed to formulate an ASEAN customs transit system for the facilitation of goods in transit, which will form part of the ASEAN Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Goods in Transit. The Agreement is being developed in consultation .vith other ASEAN bodies, among them, transport and trade. Such a System would further facilitate the movement of goods across borders, particularly among geographically contiguous countries in the region, thus taking full advantage of the synergies of the region’s economies. The Framework Agreement is targeted to be finalised by ASEAN for signing in December 1998 at the Sixth ASEAN Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam. Details of the System will be further developed.

Mechanism for Greater Pro-Activeness in the International Customs Fora Established

18. A mechanism for greater pro-activeness of ASEAN customs in the international fora had been established. An informal group comprising ASEAN customs attaches 11-1 Brussels had been created to monitor and provide assessments of developments at, among others, the World Customs Organisation. The informal group will, where possible, coordinate common ASEAN positions, in consultation with the ASEAN Directors-General of Customs.

19. The Directors-General also held an exchange of views on international customs meetings, among others in APEC, the World Customs Organisation and ASEM.

Other Areas of Cooperation Makes Progress

20. The Directors-General were pleased to note the progress made in other areas of cooperation, among them:

  1. the harmonisation of tariff nomenclature;

  2. implementation of the GATT Valuation Agreement and the harmonisation of customs valuation systems;

  3. simplification and harmonisation of customs procedures;

  4. technical assistance programme on customs.

21. The Directors-General directed their officials to intensify work in these areas.