INTRODUCTION

The Third Meeting of the ASEAN Directors-General of Customs was held in Hanoi, Vietnam on 27-28 November 1 995 for the first time. Vietnam officially became a Member of ASEAN on 28 July 1995 and will begin fulfilling her commitments on trade liberalisation under the Common Effective Preferential Tariff Scheme (CEPT) for the ASEAN Free Trade Area.

2. The Meeting was attended by Yang Amat Mulia, Pengiran Lela Cheteria Shahibon Najabah Pengiran Anak Ha’i Abdul Aziz, Controller of Customs and Excise of the Royal Customs and Excise Department, Brunei Darussalam; Mr. Roesdi Riza, Head of Central Communication Facilities, Directorate General of Customs and Excise, Indonesia; Dato’ Mohd. Nor Bin Abdul Hamid, Director-General of Customs, Royal Customs and Excise Department, Malaysia; Mr. Licerio C. Evangelista, Deputy Commissioner, Bureau of Customs, the Philippines; Mr. Koh Chong Hwa, Director-General of Customs, Customs and Excise Department, Singapore; Mr. Suphachai Phisitvanich, Director-General of Customs, Customs Department, Thailand; Dr. Phan Van Dinh, Director-General of Customs, General Department of Customs, Vietnam; and their respective delegations. Dr. Suthad Setboonsarng, Director, AFTA Unit and members of the ASEAN Secretariat were also in attendance.

3. The Meeting was chaired by Dr. Phan Van Dinh, Director-General of Customs, General Department of Customs, Vietnam.

4. Dr. Phan Van Dinh, Director-General of Customs, Vietnam, presented his welcoming remarks which appears as ANNEX A.

5. The Meeting was officially opened by H.E. Phan Van Khai, Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam. His opening remarks appears as ANNEX B.

6. Dr. Suthad Setboonsarng, Director, AFTA Unit presented his opening remarks which appears in ANNEX C.

7. The Directors-General met to discuss issues on customs cooperation in ASEAN as a follow-up to the mandates from the Seventh ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) Council held in Brunei Darussalam on 6 September 1995, particularly in the areas of the harmonisation of tariff nomenclatures, customs valuation and customs procedures.

8. The Directors-General reiterated their firm commitment towards widening and deepening customs cooperation in ASEAN in support of the implementation of the Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT) Scheme for AFTA and to further remove impediments to trade for the benefit of importers and exporters in the region. The Directors-General further recognised that customs cooperation was an essential ingredient for any free trade arrangement and would contribute towards sustaining and enhancing the economic growth and dynamism in ASEAN. These cooperation activities in customs would also be important for new Members such as Vietnam and would form the foundation for her integration into the regional and global economies. This would further complement deeper economic integration policies of ASEAN.

ASEAN Guidebook on Customs Procedures

9. For the benefit of the trading community in the region, an ASEAN Guidebook on Customs Procedures which will reflect procedures for all products traded in ASEAN is currently being compiled. The Directors-General noted the progress in the preparation of the Guidebook which will be published in January-February 1 996 by the AFTA Unit, ASEAN Secretariat, 70A JI. Sisingamangaraja, Jakarta 12110, Indonesia (fax: 62 21 7243348).

Green Lane System for CEPT Products

10. A Green Lane System to expedite the customs clearance for CEPT products is currently being prepared. Member Countries shall be implementing their respective systems for CEPT products by 1 January 1996. The Directors-General were pleased to note the progress in the preparations. Finalisation of the Green Lane system will be made in time for endorsement of the Summit in December 1995. Information on the Green Lane System will be published by the ASEAN Secretariat. Vietnam, who will launch the implementation of CEPT Scheme on 1 January 1996 will also devise a Green Lane system at her entry points to facilitate the clearance of CEPT products.

Priority Areas for the Harmonisation of Customs Procedures

11. Following the mandates from the Seventh AFTA Ministerial Council, the Directors-General agreed to prioritise the following procedures for simplification and harmonisation in ASEAN i.e. formalities prior to lodgement of goods declaration at time of import, customs clearance for home use and examination of goods. These will now be worked out by the officials. Other areas for harmonisation will be prioritised in the next Meeting. The Directors-General were of the view that this would further simplify trade transactions and called on the private sector of ASEAN to take advantage of the increased opportunities under the CEPT for AFTA.

12. The Directors-General called on the ASEAN private sector for feedbacks, and on the World Customs Organisation for technical assistance to ASEAN in the harmonisation process.

Harmonisation of Customs Valuation Systems

13. In a move towards further trade liberalisation both on a multilateral and regional basis, the Directors-General of Customs agreed to a coordinated and accelerated implementation of the GATT Customs Valuation Agreement by the end of 1997. Member Countries are now studying each other’s implementation plans on the GATT Valuation Agreement (GVA) with the view to harmonising and aligning them at the regional level. The Directors-General were of the view that this would ensure uniformity of treatment and interpretation in the application of the GVA as a means for further trade facilitation in ASEAN.

14. The Directors-General called on the private sector to be more actively involved and to provide their inputs into the harmonisation process. The Directors-General further called on the World Customs Organisation to provide technical assistance to ASEAN in their harmonisation endeavours.

ASEAN Agreement on Customs

15. The Directors-General observed that a more legalistic framework on customs cooperation in ASEAN would chart the course for future customs cooperation, activities in ASEAN as well as provide an environment of confidence to the trading community, conducive for trade facilitation. The Agreement will emphasise, among others, the promotion of transparency, harmonisation of tariff nomenclature, customs valuation and procedures, simplicity, consistency of treatment, a system of appeals, a dispute settlement mechanism and mutual assistance among customs administrations in ASEAN for enhanced enforcement. The Directors-General agreed to target the completion of the Agreement by September 1996.

Harmonisation of Tariff Nomenclature

16. The Directors-General noted the progress in the preparations to harmonise tariff nomenclatures in ASEAN. A first draft harmonised nomenclature has already been drafted. Harmonisation is targeted to be completed by the end of 1997. This promotes transparency in the conduct of trade transactions for goods moving within ASEAN.