Cooperation in the field of Customs
The Group on Customs Cooperation, comprising heads of customs organisations of Member States, administers and implements cooperation in the area of customs which has held five Meetings so far.
The Fourth Meeting of the Group on Customs Cooperation (Faridabad, India, 12-13 August 2004) had decided to set up a Sub-Group to facilitate further discussion in the areas of (a) Draft Agreement on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters; (b) Harmonised System; (c) Commercial Fraud; (d) Capacity Building.
During 2004 to 2009, the Sub-Group on Customs Cooperation held six Meetings to carry out the above mandate during which discussion on Draft Agreement and on commercial fraud was finalised and concluded successfully.
The Sub-Group has held seven Meetings so far since its inception. The Sixth Meeting of the Sub-Group on Customs Cooperation (SAARC Secretariat, 14-15 January 2009) focused, inter-alia, on issues relating to documentation and procedure and timeframe for their implementation. It attempted Harmonization of Customs clearing procedures and documentation among the SAARC Member States. In this context, it undertook detailed examination of basic export/import documentation of the Member States, and procedures for their filing. It also focused on harmonising those 8-digit tariff lines which are being traded or have the potential of being traded among the SAARC Member States.
The Seventh Meeting of the Sub-Group on Customs Cooperation (SAARC Secretariat, 11-12 February 2010) made several recommendations with a view to facilitating trade in goods in SAARC. These, inter-alia, include:
(i) focus on building infrastructure including roads and railways networks near the Land Border Customs Stations (LCSs).
(ii) Customs Clearance procedures at LCSs also need to be smoothened;
(iii) Customs Administrations may consider a system of Customs facilitation in which Export documentation of one Member State could be considered by the Customs administration in the importing country for the purposes of assessing and clearing the consignment.
(iv) As individual Customs Administrations in the SAARC countries move towards automation in clearing trade consignments at the LCSs, the Sub-Group on Customs Cooperation shall work towards developing an Electronic Data Exchange System within the region, including at LCSs, with a view to ensure better facilitation of trade in goods among the SAARC countries including improved compliance.
(v) SAARC Secretariat may develop a regional/sub-regional project to set up automated customs clearing mechanism at the designated LCSs. In this regard, the Member States may indicate the name of the LCS in their respective country where the facility would need to be established.
The Seventh Meeting of the Sub-Group on Customs Cooperation also discussed the matter of harmonisation of 8-digit tariff lines in detail and felt that in order to make this task easier, all Member States would further provide upto only 100 8-digit tariff lines with a trade potential of 75% (in value terms) in the region. It also agreed that on receipt of this information as per agreed format from all the Member States, the Secretariat may outsource the job of carrying out analysis of the differences in the descriptions of the 8-digit tariff lines submitted by the Member States.
The Eighth Meeting of the Sub-Group on customs Cooperation was held on 22-23 August 2011 at the SAARC Secretariat.