INTRODUCTION

1. The Fourth Meeting of the ASEAN Directors-General of Customs was held at the ASEAN Secretariat, Jakarta on 4-5 September 1996.

2. The Meeting was attended by Pg. Hj. Naserudin bin Pg. Hj. Tejudin, Acting Deputy Controller of Customs, Royal Customs and Excise Department, Brunei Darussalam; Mr. Soehardjo, Director-General of Customs and Excise, Directorate General of Customs and Excise, Indonesia; Dato’ Mohd. Nor bin Abd. Hamid, Director-General of Customs, Royal Customs and Excise, Malaysia; 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. Preecha Chavalittumrong, Deputy Director-General, Thai Customs Department, Thailand; Dr. Phan Van Dinh, Director-General, General Department of Vietnam Customs; and their respective delegations. H.E. Dato’ Ajit Singh, Secretary-General of ASEAN and staff of the ASEAN Secretariat were also present.

3. The Meeting was chaired by H.E. Dato’ Ajit Singh.

4. For the Opening Ceremony, H.E. Dato’ Ajit Singh delivered his Opening Remarks. The Keynote Address of H.E. Pak Mar’ie Muhammad, Minister of Finance of Indonesia was delivered by H.E. Dr. Dono Iskandar Djojosubroto, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Finance.

5. The Directors-General met to review progress on customs cooperation since their last Meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, in November 1995. The Directors-General also followed-up on various mandates from the Fifth ASEAN Summit, the AFTA Council and the ASEAN Economic Ministers on customs matters.

6. 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 to any free trade arrangement and would contribute to sustaining and enhancing the economic growth and dynamism of ASEAN.

Green Lane System for CEPT Products Effective in Reducing Processing Time

7. The Green Lane System for CEPT products was launched at the Fifth ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, in December 1995. It is a special arrangement, introduced to expedite customs clearance for CEPT products, in order to facilitate intra-ASEAN trade.

8. The Directors-General were pleased to note that the Green Lane Systems operating in various Member Countries since the beginning of this year were effective in expediting the clearance of CEPT products. For example, a review in Malaysia and Thailand showed that processing time for CEPT products were reduced by 60% and 40% respectively as compared to non-CEPT products. The Directors-General encouraged greater utilisation of the Green Lane System for CEPT products by importers and exporters in ASEAN to take advantage of the benefits accorded.

9. In recognising the need to make the Green Lane continuously attractive to importers and exporters, the Directors-General agreed on a regular review of the System so as to further streamline procedures.

Mechanism to Enhance Linkage with the Private Sector Established

10. The Directors-General recognised the important role customs plays to enable the private sector to function more effectively and smoothly. Although the customs administration in each country has regular meetings with their private sector clients, the Directors-General agreed to hold regular dialogues, at their Meetings, with the private sector for a mutual exchange of views. All requests by the private sector will be made through the ASEAN Secretariat. The Directors-General welcomed requests from private sector representatives like the ASEAN-Chamber of Commerce and Industry, various industry and trade clubs and Customs Brokers Associations to hold consultations with them.

Exchange of Views on International Customs Issues

11. The Directors-General exchanged views on international customs matters, including those discussed at ASEM, APEC and the World Customs Organisation meetings. The Directors-General recognised the need for ASEAN to be more coordinated in these fora, and therefore established institutional mechanisms for this purpose.

ASEAN Agreement on Customs finalised and is ready for signature

12. The Directors-General finalised the ASEAN Agreement on Customs and agreed to recommend that it be signed by the appropriate Ministers. The Agreement provides a legal framework for customs cooperation in ASEAN and covers the harmonisation of tariff nomenclature, customs valuation and customs procedures. The Agreement also reflects the “CASTEM” principles of consistency, appeals, simplicity, transparency, efficiency and mutual assistance of customs.

Bold and Long Term Customs Vision to be Formulated

13. Recognising the changing role of customs within the context of rapid international, regional and domestic developments, the Directors-General agreed that a bold and long term vision for customs be formulated taking into account the role of customs in the 21st century as well as the developments in the international trade environment. This vision will be worked out by the officials.

Substantial Progress Made on Other Areas of Customs Cooperation

14. The Directors-General were pleased to note the following substantial progress made in the other areas of customs cooperation:

  1. Harmonisation of Tariff Nomenclature: a fourth draft nomenclature has been completed and Member Countries are working on the streamlining of this draft;

  2. Harmonisation of Customs Valuation Systems: Member Countries are now making every effort to accelerate their implementation of the GATT Valuation Agreement (GVA) by 1997. Various training courses are being organised in ASEAN to facilitate this. ASEAN is also working towards aligning the implementation of the GVA for greater uniformity;

  3. Harmonisation of Customs Procedures: An approach for harmonisation has been agreed and various procedures have been prioritised. Member Countries are also exploring cooperation in the implementation of the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) to further simplify customs procedures;

  4. Common Customs Form: The Directors-General have agreed to finalise the draft ASEAN Common Customs Form by the Informal ASEAN Summit at the end of November 1996.

Meetings of the ASEAN Directors-General of Customs to be Institutionalised

15. The Directors-General, mindful of the rapidly growing breadth and depth of customs cooperation in ASEAN, agreed to institutionalise their Meetings, that is to meet at least once a year. Their meetings shall be the sole principal body to oversee customs cooperation work in ASEAN. In this regard, the Directors-General agreed to meet in Brunei Darussalam next year.