ASEAN Simplifies Trade Procedures for Exporters

Starting this week, eligible exporters can self-certify the origin of their goods to enjoy zero tariff under the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA).

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations began implementing the ASEAN-Wide Self-Certification (AWSC) scheme on 20 September. It is an initiative that is expected to facilitate and boost trade among the 10 countries of ASEAN by making it easier, faster, and less costly to export goods.

Improving supply chain efficiency

The timing could not be any better as businesses struggle to cope with disruptions in trade and transport caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Economic activities have slowed down around the world, not just in Southeast Asia, as countries took action to control the spread of the virus by restricting travel and even closing borders. After months of lockdowns and quarantines, ASEAN countries have started to jumpstart their economies.

The trade agreement has been in place since 2010 and provides for the removal of import duties for nearly all the products of ASEAN, which groups Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam. BIMP-EAGA is a subgroup.

At their annual meeting in 2018, ASEAN economic ministers signed the First Protocol to amend the ATIGA to implement the self-certification scheme. USAID supported the automation of the self-certification system, which was completed this year.

The scheme is expected to improve the ease and reduce the cost of doing business, shorten distribution timelines, improve the efficiency of supply chains, and make exporters in the region more competitive and enable them to offer their products at a lower price. It will also streamline the operations of regulating agencies.

Applying for certification

Certified exporters no longer need to get a Certificate of Origin (Form D), which takes more than a couple of days to obtain. Instead, they can make an origin declaration on the invoice, bill of lading, delivery order, or packing list.

Exporters can avail of the scheme after being approved as a certified exporter in their country. Certification requires a good understanding of ATIGA’s rules of origin, a track record of good compliance, a sound bookkeeping and record-keeping system, and manufacturer’s declaration. Information on certified exporters are uploaded to the AWSC database of the ASEAN Secretariat, which customs authorities of member states will use to verify the origin declaration.

The scheme is seen to benefit particularly the small manufacturers and traders that have had difficulty getting the proper documents to avail of preferential tariff under the trade agreement.

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