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Trade facilitation (TF) aims to reduce the costs and time of import and export operations, and transit of goods. Moreover, it is the traditional object of many international standards, adopted by the United Nations and specialized agencies, such as the World Customs Organization.  TF has gained more importance with the reduction of tariffs and the proliferation of global production chains. Since 2004, World Trade Organization (WTO) Members have been negotiating the text of a multilateral agreement on TF, setting out specific obligations with respect to the facilitation of trade and establishing special and differential treatment for developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs).

Developing countries are expected to see the biggest gains with the passage of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) since they currently face some of the largest procedural obstacles. Studies suggest that their trade costs will fall by 13% to 15% while households will gain access to a greater variety of goods. Developing country exports are also expected to grow by 14% to 22% while becoming more diversified. For companies, it means inputs at lower costs and better entry into foreign markets, thus making them more likely to become more profitable which should encourage domestic investment. In addition, foreign direct investment is likely to be attracted to countries that fully implement the TFA.

The TFA finally entered into force on the 22nd February, 2017, when the WTO obtained acceptance of the TFA from two-thirds of its 164 Members

The entry into force of the TFA launches a new phase for trade facilitation reforms in the Commonwealth of Dominica. TF has become the baseline for emerging regional and global initiatives on paperless trade and e-trade, has a positive impact on Dominica’s ranking in the World Bank’s Annual Ease of Doing Business Report, and will deliver perceived benefits resulting from the implementation of the various measures. (Dominica ranked 103 out of a total of 190 countries surveyed in the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report. This represents the third highest ranked Country among CARICOM Member States). 

The result of a WTO Needs Assessment Exercise conducted in the OECS in 2013 revealed that Dominica was already in compliance with in excess of 75% of the TF Measures. This was due to the following;

  • Recent upgrade of the Customs Legislation and the Dominica Air and Seaports Authority (DASPA) Legislation reflecting international best practice
  • Upgrade of Customs and DASPA’s Automated Systems (the Customs Division upgraded to ASYCUDAWORLD Version 4.2.2 on June 11th, 2019)
  • Various reforms undertaken at Customs and other Government Border Agencies)

The signed TF Agreement contains approximately 40 measures set out in 12 Articles. Although many of the measures apply only to the Customs Division, the majority of provisions apply to all Border Agencies that deal with trade in goods.

In the fourth quarter of 2018 Dominica made the following notifications in accordance with Articles 15 and 16 of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (WT/L/931)

  • CATEGORY A Measures (Articles 1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 2.1, 2.2, 4, 5.1, 5.2, 6.1, 6.3, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, 7.5, 7.8, 8, 9, 10.1, 10.2, 10.3, 10.5, 10.6, 10.7, 10.9, and 11)
  • CATEGORY B Measure Article 7.7 (Trade Facilitation Measures for Authorized Operators)

An Importers Enhanced Facilitation Program was implemented on Jan 1st, 2019, for deserving companies assessed as significantly compliant by both the Inland Revenue Department and the Risk Management Unit of Customs through analysis of their performance in the ASYCUDAWorld System. The program is designed to expedite the release of bona fide consignments through customs controls.    

The identified companies enrolled in the program will benefit from the following

  1. Increase in the number of declarations receiving Green and Blue Lane treatment
  2. Designated relationship managers to help solve any cargo clearance problems that may arise
  3. Priority treatment at Customs clearance if selected for Customs control
  4. Access to Customs container officers during normal working hours
  5. Use of non-intrusive inspection equipment, where possible, whenever physical examination is required
  6. Priority Customs processing during periods of elevated threat conditions
  7. Priority treatment in post-incident resumptions and trade recovery programs
  8. Self-assessment when Customs Automated Systems are not functioning
  9. Priority demonstration of Asycuda updates at their work place

* The processing of declarations by other interested agencies including the Bureau of Standards, Divisions of Agriculture and Health, among others, where statutory inspection or documentary scrutiny is required such as in the case of licenses & permits will not be affected by the program, with Customs not being able to release the goods until having been cleared by them.

The Enhanced Facilitation Program is designed to evolve into an established Authorized Economic Operator Program in keeping with Article 7, Paragraph 7, of the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation.

The following highlights the eligibility criteria which must exist and maintained by the importers in order to be approved and benefit as Authorised Economic Operators:

  1. Importers/Exporters must be compliant with Customs and other Govt. agencies laws, rules and procedures
  2. Importers/Exporters must have internal systems for reporting back to Customs
  3. Importers/Exporters must have and maintain appropriate Record Keeping
  4. Importers/Exporters must have Financial Solvency
  5. Importers/Exporters must have proven practical standards of competence or professional qualifications
  6. Importers/Exporters must have appropriate security and safety standards (insurance)
  7. Importers/Exporters must have a licensed Customs Broker/Tariff Clerk who is in good standing with the CED

Should you have any questions with regards to the program feel free to contact the Customs and Excise Division

  • CATEGORY C Measure Article 1.3 (Enquiry Points)

The ICT Unit of the Government of Dominica launched a web application dubbed “Connect2Government” in 2012. The application can be described as a web based help desk system developed by the ICTU which will allow an Operator to query clients’ questions/inquiries using a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Database. The system offers two special features: a database of over one hundred questions on government services and an administrator search engine.

It is believed that this new application will offer quick and easy access to essential information on government services. This initiative forms part of the Unit’s ongoing effort to enhance the quality and availability of information to members of the general public.

The Information and Communications Technology Unit (ICTU) is the central coordinating and executing agency established by the Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica (GOCD) to coordinate the planning, implementation and monitoring of e-Government and the use of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) within the public sector.

Recent upgrades include the accessing of Connect2Government through the internet, and plans are ongoing to make it available through a Mobile Application.

Relevant Legislation required to set up the legal platform to respond to enquiries within an established timeframe

  • CATEGORY C Measure Article 3 (Advanced Rulings)

The CED in an effort to facilitate Importers, Exporters, interested parties and/or their representatives, introduces a new procedure for the issuance of advance rulings prior to the importation of goods.

The advance ruling sets forth the treatment that Customs will provide to goods at the time of importation, with regards to;

  • The Goods Tariff Classification
  • The eligibility of the origin of goods for exemption of customs duties limited to CARICOM preferential agreements

Requests for advance rulings shall be presented to the Comptroller of Customs prior to the importation of the goods through a written application on the prescribed form containing all the necessary information

Customs will issue the advance rulings within a reasonable time period from receipt of the application depending on the nature and complexity of the requests.

The advance rulings issued by the Comptroller shall be binding and shall be valid for a period of six months unless the law, facts or circumstances supporting the ruling has changed.

NB – Customs reserves the right to revoke, modify or invalidate a ruling in circumstances where the ruling was based on incomplete, incorrect, false, or misleading information

There is the need however to lay the legal platform for the establishment of a National Ruling Processing Unit in the Commonwealth of Dominica

  • CATEGORY C Measure Article 5.3 (Test Procedures)

Efforts are ongoing by the Dominica Bureau of Standards to procure the required laboratory equipment for accreditation of the laboratory to successfully carry out confirmatory tests for goods imported into Dominica

  • CATEGORY C Measure Article 6.2 (Specific Disciplines on Fees and Charges for Customs Processing imposed on or in connection with Importation and Exportation

Efforts are ongoing for mapping and costing the services rendered by Customs including the development of a fair and transparent fee structure

  • CATEGORY C Measure Article 7.6 (Establishment and Publication of Average Release Times)

The ASYCUDAWorld System is a reliable tool utilized by the Customs Division to calculate the average Customs Release Times. However, there is a need to prepare a guide to measure the National Average Times for release of cargo consignments from importation to exit from port of entry

  • CATEGORY C Measure Article 7.9 (Perishable Goods)

Legal guidelines for the processing of perishable goods are already developed and contained in Section 79 of the CARICOM Harmonized Regulations

  • CATEGORY C Measure Article 10.4 (Single Window)

The operation of a Single Window is part of the Strategy of the Customs Division to facilitate trade in the most efficient and effective manner. A single window operation will create potential to reinforce the local economy and attract more international trade.

The Division has developed a Project Proposal for the implementation of a Single Window in the Commonwealth of Dominica and is currently seeking the much needed support from potential donors for its operation. It is the intention to begin the commencement of the project by the fourth quarter of 2019 with the much needed assistance of the revamped National Trade Facilitation Committee which was recently restructured in an effort to advance the implementation of the TFA. The Committee is made up of a wide range of individuals from both the public and private sector with Customs having a very strong presence on the make-up

A summary of the top outcomes and positive impacts of the Single Window;

TOP OUTCOMES

  • Reduced customs clearance times
  • Reduce other border agency clearance times
  • Reduce costs of clearance of goods

TOP IMPACTS;

  • Increased foreign investment
  • Export market diversification
  • Increased domestic investment
  • Increase in consumer welfare
  • Increase in employment
  • CATEGORY C Measure Article 10.8 (Rejected Goods)

The Divisions of Agriculture, the Environmental Health Unit, and the Dominica Bureau of Standards has already developed draft legislation reflecting international standards which gives specific guidelines for the procedure and disposal of rejected goods

 

  • CATEGORY C Measure Article 12 (Customs Cooperation)

Efforts are ongoing to develop guidelines at regional and international levels for information sharing utilizing the ASYCUDAWorld System. The Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) and the Advanced Cargo Information System (ACIS) are examples of the above.

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