Customs Update: Leadership Reshuffle at Philippine Customs Bureau

Customs Update | September 12, 2017
Authors: Ian Saccomanno, Shay Wester, Ying Hui Tng, Riley Smith, and Natalie McDaniel
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 
  • September 14 - U.S.-Singapore Third Country Training Program on the WTO Trade Facilitation AgreementThe United States Trade Representative is inviting US-ASEAN Business Council members to join a private sector consultation day during a Singapore - United States joint third country training program on the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. The United States and Singapore plan to use the program to discuss with the rest of ASEAN's members how to implement the TFA and sequence commitments. The private sector participation day on September 14 will give the business community the opportunity to discuss their priorities for TFA implementation and how it will affect their businesses. The day is also meant to reinforce the importance of private sector dialogue and provide a template for future consultations on the TFA.
  • September 21 - Customs Committee Quarterly CallPlease join us for a Customs and Trade Facilitation Committee quarterly call. The call will discuss plans to attend the next meeting of the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Customs, where the Council hopes to present proposals on facilitation of low-value shipments and global data standards pilot projects and to review other recent Council programs and potential future work. Please contact Ian Saccomanno at isaccomanno@usasean.org or Ying Hui Tng at yhtng@usasean.org to discuss the agenda.
  • September 26-28 - Mission to the ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM): The US-ASEAN Business Council is now registering senior-level executives for its Business Mission to the 35th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM) in Pasay, Metro Manila, from September 26-28. The mission schedule will consist of bilateral meetings with the ASEAN Energy Ministers, as well as relevant AMEM Dialogue Partners. We are also attempting to organize a luncheon dialogue with the ASEAN Energy Ministers and the ASEAN Secretariat to discuss regional energy issues. Click here to register.
  • September 28-29 - Mission to the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF): The Council will be leading a business delegation to the 39th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) in Chiang Mai, Thailand on September 28-29, 2017. This annual mission provides a platform for members to engage with the ten ministers of agriculture, senior agricultural officials, and the ASEAN Secretariat. Some key focus areas include Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) and technology development in the agricultural sector. For more information, please contact Sunita Kapoor at skapoor@usasean.org.
  • October 12-13 - Mission to the ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting, Singapore: Please save the date for the US-ASEAN Business Council's second mission to the 23rd ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting in Singapore on October 12-13, 2017. The Council has been invited to host the ten ASEAN Transport Ministers, Senior Transport Officials, and the Secretary General of ASEAN for a working luncheon. Bilateral meetings with priority countries will also be conducted. Official invitation with registration details to follow. Please contact Sunita Kapoor at skapoor@usasean.org and Jack Myint at jmyint@usasean.org with any questions or to express interest.
  • October 17-18 - Brunei Business Mission: Please save the date for the US-ASEAN Business Council's annual mission to Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei from October 17-18, 2017. The Council is currently developing proposals to engage the Government of Brunei on its priorities in an effort to diversify its economy, which will include the financial sector (electronic payments, insurance, banking and financial inclusion), ICT sector (digital economy, cyber security), and energy sector. If you would like to propose any ideas or if you have any questions, please contact Artha Sirait at asirait@usasean.org.
  • October 24-26 - ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Customs Meeting (CCC): Please save the date for the 27th meeting of the CCC, to be hosted in the Philippines. The Customs Committee hopes to bring a delegation to present detailed proposals for how the business community can collaborate with ASEAN's customs leaders and begin developing implementation plans. Please contact Ian Saccomanno at isaccomanno@usasean.org or Ying Hui Tng at yhtng@usasean.org for more information. 
  • December 6-8 - Myanmar Business Mission: Please save the date for the US-ASEAN Business Council's annual business mission to Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon, Myanmar on December 6-8, 2017. Official invitation with registration details to follow. Requested meetings include President U Htin Kyaw, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Key Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament including Speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House) U Win Myint, Myanmar Investment Commission, and the UMFCCI. Please contact Jack Myint at jmyint@usasean.org with any questions or to express interest.
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Leadership Reshuffle at Philippine Customs Bureau

On August 30, Isidro Lapeña officially became the new Commissioner of the Philippines Bureau of Customs after the previous Commissioner, Nicanor Faeldon, and other senior staff left amid scandal earlier on August 22.  Commissioner Lapeña’s former post as Director General of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) was filled by Aaron Aquino, who previously served as the Central Luzon police director.

Upon taking his new post, Commissioner Lapeña declared that his top priority would be a crackdown on corruption. In his opening address, he declared, “I will implement a ‘one-strike policy’ to boost internal cleansing, which of course, shall be supported by intensified counter-intelligence efforts” and concluded by adding, “if you are not with me, step aside because I am looking to steamroll major changes across the bureau.” On August 31, Commissioner Lapeña abolished the controversial Command Center in one of his first orders, Customs Memorandum Order No. 14-2017, allowing deputy commissioners of the Intelligence Group, Enforcement Group, and all district collectors the authority to issue alert orders. He also suspended use of the customs Green Lane, diverting traffic to the slower Yellow and Red Lanes, in response the smuggling scandal that led to Commissioner Faeldon’s resignation. Congressional committees are also investigating the scandal, which may lead to further policy changes and arrests. One suggestion that has been raised by senators is to reintroduce pre-shipment inspection for containerized cargo. The leadership transition and scandal appear to have also disrupted the development of the implementing regulations for the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act. Consultations have slowed since July and the Draft Customs Administrative Order on Supervision and Regulation of Other Third Parties, which was meant to be issued on September 7, has been delayed until August 5.

Although the case occurred in late May, the scandal was revealed to the public around July 31 by Congressional investigators. Faeldon and other Customs officials are accused of failing to coordinate with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and not securing a search warrant for an operation that mishandled a seizure of ₱6.4 billion (US$125 million) shipment of methamphetamines that had been smuggled into the country through the customs Green Lane. Commissioner Faeldon, Neil Estrella, the director of intelligence and investigation services, and Milo Maestrecampo, the director of import-assessment services, left the Customs Bureau and may face charges. Then on August 30, the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against them. On August 14, the National Bureau of Investigation began cases against nine others who were allegedly involved in the smuggling operation. Commissioner Faeldon has also been cited as in contempt for refusing to appear at the congressional hearings until he was detained by the Senate on September 11. The scandal has also grown beyond the smuggling case and become increasingly political, with some Senators even accusing members of President Duterte’s family of being involved. As Commissioner Faeldon left office, he was also accused by Senator Ping Lacson of accepting a ₱100 million (US$2 million) “welcome gift” when he assumed his post as Customs Commissioner in July 2016. Commissioner Faeldon denied this allegation and accused Senator Lacson’s son of undervaluing about ₱2 billion (US$39.5 million) worth of cement to evade customs duties.

RCEP Deadline Slips into 2018 Amid Slow Progress

The ministers leading the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations began tempering expectations for a successful 2017 conclusion after the September 10 ministerial meeting ended without significant progress. Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez, who chaired the meeting, said that ASEAN and its partners will have to set more realistic expectations and aim for only defining the parameters of each chapter by the end of this year. Before the ministerial, India hosted the 19th negotiating round in Hyderabad from July 17-28, where negotiators hoped to make progress that could be presented to the ministers. The round was wide-ranging, covering goods, services, trade remedies, customs clearance, investment, intellectual property, government procurement, competition policy, e-commerce, and dispute settlement. The negotiators seem to have made some progress on developing the chapter parameters that the parties now hope to agree to by the end of the year. They also agreed during the meeting to form a new working group to develop the chapter on government procurement, though India and some ASEAN members seem to still oppose binding commitments on procurememnt market access.

The 20th negotiating round, which is scheduled for October 17-28 in South Korea, is the last of 2017. The bigggest current obstacle in the negotiations is that large gaps remain between goods market access offers. The current offers range from eliminating tariffs on 70 percent to 100 percent of goods. ASEAN is targeting 90-92 percent, which seems to be where most others are now converging. The non-ASEAN parties are expected to submit new offers in advance of the October round. Of the 15 areas under discussion, only the relatively uncontroversial chapters on small and medium enterprise development and economic cooperation have been completed. RCEP’s potential 2017 outcomes will then be discussed by leaders at the November 10-14 ASEAN Summit. The parties hope that they can use the summit to endorse the key parameters for each chapter of the deal, which will affirm the broad negotiating targets for every issue and give the negotiators a more defined mandate. The specifics of the chapters would then be worked out in 2018. The content of the November leaders’ statement will thus be critical to determining the final scope and timeline of the agreement, should it be successfully endorsed.

Digitalizing Economy Motivates Singapore's Proposed GST Application to Online Sales of Low-value Goods

In a speech last month at the SMU-TA Centre for Excellence in Taxation Conference, Ms. Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance, presented the Singapore Government’s case for expanding the country’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) to cover low-value e-commerce goods. She argued that it was in response to an increasingly digitalizing economy and elaborated on Singapore’s three-pronged approach to adapting the country’s tax system to the challenges arising from this shift:

  1. “First, Singapore is committed to providing a stable business environment for our businesses by upholding international principles and participating in international efforts;
  2. Second, Singapore will continue to engage businesses to ensure that our tax system remains growth-oriented; and
  3. Third, specific to the taxation of the digital economy, Singapore advocates three high-level principles - (i) tax certainty for businesses, (ii) tax neutrality between traditional and digital business models; and (iii) international consensus.”
    1. Rajah cited how the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) has worked with Singapore’s treaty partners to ensure businesses can avail themselves of efficient dispute resolution mechanisms.
    2. Tax neutrality, and by extension the GST expansion, is meant to level the playing field between traditional brick-and-mortar stores that fall under the current GST and the newer digital business models where foreign vendors of low-value goods are not required to pay the GST.
    3. Singapore has been a signatory to all three multilateral agreements on the exchange of information, and that last year it joined the Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Sharing (BEPS), making it one of the first few non-G20 and non-OECD countries to do so.

The full text of Rajah’s speech is available here.

The way in which Singapore has proposed to level the playing field is likely to increase the regulatory and compliance burdens for the newly affected vendors, unfortunately. Currently, both physical and digital goods fall under the GST if they are supplied locally. The proposal by IRAS would expand GST to also cover low-value goods sold online, an attempt to improve the competitiveness of local vendors by reducing their price disparity. To enact the expansion, the Singapore Government would create a registration system for firms that sell above a certain amount in goods and services in Singapore’s business-to-consumer market. The proposal sets the amount at S$1 million, which would appear to exempt small firms. However, online platforms and shipping agents would also have to register the firms that use their services and collect GST on behalf of these firms. As the Asian Trade Centre argues in a June Policy Brief entitled “Should E-Commerce and Digital Trade be Taxed,” (available here) that the prospect of requiring online platforms and shipping agents to register and collect taxes from potentially thousands of foreign firms selling goods in Singapore seems unrealistic. They also argue that the regulations risk making e-commerce transaction more burdensome and expensive, reducing the attractiveness of the sector to consumers.

The Council submitted input on behalf of Members for IRAS's call for input on June 30. A copy of the submission, which notes the increased administrative burden the expansion would place on foreign online vendors of low-value goods and digital services, can be found here.

 
 
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Multilateral Trade Agreements
With RCEP deal unlikely this year, ministers settle for 'realistic' goals
TPP negotiators propose long lists of revisions at Sydney summit: source
ASEAN, EU adopt updated action plan on cooperation
Optimism about a new pact
RCEP Negotiators Conclude Nineteenth Round, Push for "Accelerated" Progress

ASEAN
Hong Kong and ASEAN conclude Free Trade Agreement negotiations
Japan looks to spread its customs system in Southeast Asia
High on symbolism, low on trade
Asean Economic Community a solid pathway to prosperity
Improve implementation of tobacco tax policies, ASEAN urged
The AEM-USTR Consultations
Asean task force recommends boosting intraregional trade and investment flows
Asean in talks to lift more duties
Mustapa: More than half a billion people across Asean benefiting from regional grouping

Cambodia
Cambodia lags Asean peers in eliminating tariffs
System from Japan to standardise local ports
Cambodia, Thailand reach tax deal
Kingdom joins group fighting tax evasion
Cambodia, China Sign MoU on Cooperation in the Field of Trademark and Branding
Nontariff barriers continue to hinder regional trade
Russia’s Electronic Trading Platform Association seeks cooperation in e-commerce with private companies in Cambodia
Exports to US bounce back on revised GSP
Garment makers deny trade preference alarm
NGO report finds banned exports of logs to Vietnam increased

Indonesia
Indonesia faces barriers in palm oil exports
IA - CEPA Expected to be Concluded This Year
U.S. Issues Affirmative Preliminary Countervailing Duty Determinations on Biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia
Indonesia to shorten list of prohibited, restricted goods

Laos
Upgrading payment method for customs, tax, and other fees at international customs checkpoints nationwide
Import and Export Procedures in Laos – Best Practices

Malaysia
Malaysia Blitzes Illegal Wildlife Trade
Five ports to be enhanced under alliance
Parliament passes Malaysia Border Control Agency Bill
Deputy IGP confirms impending arrests of customs officers abetting secret society
Improved port services to benefit manufacturers, says FMM
All Customs staff to take integrity test, says director-general
Customs Dept to conduct studies to prevent KLIA becoming smuggling hub
MACC, customs officers can use firearms on duty, says Apandi
Illegal cigarettes still in demand despite customs crackdown

Myanmar
WWF-Myanmar sounds alarm about illegal wildlife trade
Pilot scheme speaks volumes about potential of Mae Sot-Myawaddy trade
No more teething troubles for new customs system
Tax exemptions on diamonds, emeralds and gold approved
New Trademark Law Expected To Be Enacted In 2017
Myanmar aims for trade boost with neighbouring countries with ADB help
Scholars point out the need for pro-active engagement of Myanmar in BIMSTEC
Myanmar Not Setting Up Trading Zone At India Border

Philippines
Use of green lane temporarily on hold
PH lawmaker bats for pre-shipment checks on container cargo
Faeldon: Lacson's son into smuggling
Duterte appoints Lapeña to replace embattled Faeldon at Customs
BOC collection up in first 7 months but below target
Palace receives resignation letters of 2 Customs officials
Filipinos in US, Canada give mixed reviews to new balikbayan box rules
Manila wants Asean to address alarming rise of trade barriers
PH trade repository seen to improve ease of trading for MSMEs
Faeldon fires back at House: I’ll expose you
Ratification for Asean Single Window agreement finally signed
Senate alleges corruption and incompetence in customs bureau over biggest haul yet of shabu smuggled into PH
PPA revisits TABS penalties, solicits public feedback
CCBI: Anti-Agri Smuggling Act IRR needs revision
Fines for late e-air cargo manifest submissions in PH start Sept
BOC: No legal basis to claims of jurisdiction overlap with PPA
Replacement of Bureau of Customs being eyed
Customs Chief Lapeña abolishes Command Center, vows to institute reforms

Singapore
SG testing 7-module project set to automate port operations
Singapore's plug-and-play platform to expand SMEs' market reach in Asia
Singapore Discusses Digital Economy Tax Challenges
Turkey, Singapore ratify free trade agreement in significant bilateral milestone

Thailand
Thailand deposits instrument of accession to Montreal Convention
Thais hope to get off Trump's trade hit list as Tillerson heads for Bangkok
Thailand: New and Improved Penalty Scheme under the 2017 Thai Customs Act
ICE, Kingdom of Thailand, Department of Special Investigation sign MOU to combat transnational crime

Vietnam
Vietnam To Introduce Customs Bond To Facilitate Customs Clearance
VAT increase could add $3.1bn to State budget in 2019
Doubling of imported used car tax proposed
Smuggling persists in provinces bordering with Cambodia
Highlight on documents posted in the second week of Aug 2017 on customs e-Portal
Highlight on documents posted in first week of Aug 2017 on the customs e-Portal
New temporary import for re-export regulations next month
Willingness to deploy the “airway single window”
Health enterprises join the National Single Window: Saving time, cost and human resources
Finance Ministry refuses to cut coal import tax
Consultation for draft revised Decree 08/2015 / ND CP
Vietnam Customs holds dialogue with European businesses
Highlight on documents posted on e-customs Portal in the 4th week of Aug 2017
Modern bond project launched to facilitate customs clearance in Vietnam
China Is Boosting Its Phishing Attacks — Against Vietnam
Vietnamese garment firms not fully benefiting from FTAs
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Multilateral Trade Agreements

With RCEP deal unlikely this year, ministers settle for 'realistic' goals- Nikkei Asian Review 11th Sep 2017
Countries negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade agreement are poised to miss a 2017 deadline to reach a deal, forcing them to settle for "realistic ambitions."  Ministers from the 16 RCEP countries ended an all-day meeting on Sunday without a major breakthrough in the talks that began in 2013. They instead tempered their expectations and identified "key elements" to move negotiations forward and reach a "substantial conclusion," said Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez, who chaired the meetings.

TPP negotiators propose long lists of revisions at Sydney summit: sources The Japan Times 30th Aug 2017
Some of the 11 signatory countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have put forward long lists of proposed revisions to the free trade pact, sources close to the talks have said. These demands may become a stumbling block to efforts by the 11 countries to reach agreement on a revised TPP, following withdrawal from the pact by the United States in January.

ASEAN, EU adopt updated action plan on cooperation PortCalls Asia 8th Aug 2017
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the European Union have adopted the ASEAN-EU Plan of Action (2018-2022), which replaces the Bandar Seri Begawan Plan of Action (2013-2017) and aims to continue strengthening the ASEAN-EU enhanced partnership. Among actions proposed to strengthen economic cooperation is to “intensify work towards the timely resumption of the ASEAN-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations, noting the status of bilateral FTAs between FTAs between several ASEAN Member States and the EU.” Yhe ASEAN-EU Plan of Action also looks at fast-tracking the ASEAN Customs Transit System to improve customs clearance and transit in in the region.

Optimism about a new pact Bangkok Post 5th Aug 2017
The government expects a free-trade pact between Asean and Hong Kong to be signed by the end of this year, a move that will enhance trade and investment in the region. After meeting Carrie Lam, chief executive of Hong Kong, in Bangkok yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said both sides look forward to the Asean-Hong Kong Free Trade Area (AHKFTA). Thailand hosted the July 30-31 meeting of the AHKFTA negotiating committee in Bangkok.

RCEP Negotiators Conclude Nineteenth Round, Push for "Accelerated" Progress ICTSD 3rd Aug 2017
Trade officials from 16 countries finished up the nineteenth round of negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in Hyderabad, India, last week, aiming to pave the way for a ministerial-level gathering in the Philippines this September. During the 19th round, a set of key elements for significant outcomes, envisaged to be achieved by the end of 2017, were agreed. The meeting also highlighted the need to have balanced discussions to progress negotiation across all areas, and to continue to deliver outcomes.

ASEAN

Hong Kong and ASEAN conclude Free Trade Agreement negotiations Hong Kong 12th Sep 2017
Hong Kong and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) announced today (September 9) the conclusion of the negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and a related Investment Agreement.The announcement was made at the 2nd ASEAN Economic Ministers-Hong Kong, China Consultations (AEM-HKC Consultations), co-chaired by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Edward Yau, and the Secretary of Trade and Industry of the Philippines, Mr Ramon Lopez, in Pasay City, the Philippines. Economic Ministers or their representatives of the ASEAN Member States also attended the meeting.

Japan looks to spread its customs system in Southeast Asia Nikkei Asian Review 7th Sep 2017
Japan aims to broaden exports of its customs management system to Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines, helping Southeast Asia build a regional customs network while easing Japanese businesses' expansion into the region.  The Nippon Automated Cargo and Port Consolidated System electronically manages customs procedures and centralizes interactions with relevant government bodies. It can also handle processes like quarantine inspections for importing and exporting food products.

High on symbolism, low on trade The Financial Express 22nd Aug 2017
The 19th round of RCEP negotiations concluded in Hyderabad last month with considerable uncertainty over the prospects of the deal. India is being widely made out to be the ‘spoiler’ as it is still unwilling to provide as much tariff concessions as the rest of the RCEP wants. But India might have to eventually concede much greater cuts as pressure builds up to conclude talks. The RCEP has acquired significant symbolic value given its identity as an ASEAN+ economic architecture. ASEAN is heading into the 50th year of its existence. Trade and economic integration have been hallmarks of ASEAN’s regional framework. The ASEAN regional construct has moved well beyond Southeast Asia into other parts of Asia through the ASEAN+1 FTAs.

Asean Economic Community a solid pathway to prosperity TODAYonline 7th Aug 2017
Geopolitics may have been what brought the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) together 50 years ago, but it will be economics that defines its future. Nothing will drive the vision of regional cooperation forward more than the Asean Economic Community (AEC).

Improve implementation of tobacco tax policies, ASEAN urged Vietnamnews 31st Jul 2017
ASEAN governments should do more to make their tobacco tax policies more effective, not only for health reasons but also for the budget generation. This was the recommendation under the tobacco tax index issued by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA). The index tracked progress of the tobacco tax policy against WHO FCTC Article 6 Guidelines and showed that while some countries have made significant progress in formulating and implementing tobacco tax policies, the region as a whole has advanced at a slow pace in the past few years, outpaced by economic and income growth.

The AEM-USTR Consultations ASEAN 9th Sep 2017
Consultations between the ten ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) and the United States Trade Representative (“the Ministers”) were held on 9 September 2017 in Pasay City, Philippines. The Consultations were co-chaired by H.E. Ramon M. Lopez, Secretary of Trade and Industry of the Philippines, and Ms. Barbara Weisel, Assistant United States Trade Representative (AUSTR) for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Office of the United States Trade Representative, representing H.E. Robert E. Lighthizer, United States Trade Representative (USTR).

Asean task force recommends boosting intraregional trade and investment flows BusinessMirror 22nd Aug 2017
AMID the backdrop of steady economic recovery, high-ranking officials from the 10 member-states of the Asean gathered in the Philippines for the second time this year to finalize recommendations that could further bolster the region’s trade and investment flows. The High-Level Task Force on Asean Economic Integration (HTLF-EI) is composed of trade vice ministers and serves as the visionary body for progressing the Asean Economic Community (AEC). It convened its 32nd Meeting on August 1 and 2 in Makati City in preparation for the upcoming 49th Asean Economic Ministers (AEM) Meeting in September 2017.

Asean in talks to lift more duties Manila Standard 8th Aug 2017
The ongoing meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on the proposed partial conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in India seeks to include more goods and services that will be subject to zero-percent tariff.

Mustapa: More than half a billion people across Asean benefiting from regional grouping NST Online 7th Aug 2017
Over half a billion (638.6 million) people across Asean are now benefiting from the regional grouping which promotes economic, political and security cooperation among its members. Through its economic integration, it has had an impact on people, especially through tourism, termination on import duty and greater business opportunities among major trading partners. International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said through the liberalisation of the air sector, as well as visa exemption, Malaysians are enjoying cheaper and more frequent trips to other Asean countries. “Malaysians also enjoy a wide range of Asean product options at competitive prices with the termination of import duty and other trade barriers by Asean member countries under the Goods and Trade Agreement.

Cambodia

Cambodia lags Asean peers in eliminating tariffs Phnom Penh Post 12th Sep 2017
More than 96 percent of tariffs in Asean have been eliminated, but certain parts of the 10-nation economic bloc including Cambodia lag behind others in full implementation of the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement (Atiga), the Ministry of Commerce said in a Facebook post yesterday.

System from Japan to standardise local ports Phnom Penh Post 8th Sep 2017
Japan's Nippon Automated Cargo and Port Consolidated System, a privatised company that provides online customs procedures for land and sea freight, is looking to provide its automated customs platform to Cambodia as part of an initiative to standardise procedures in Asean and facilitate Japanese business expansion in the region, according to a Japanese media report. The system, which has already cut import and export time in Vietnam and Myanmar, centralises processes such as quarantine inspections. Japan will provide the system for free after Prime Minister Hun Sen requested it from Japan’s Finance Ministry last month during a state visit.

Cambodia, Thailand reach tax deal Khmer Times 8th Sep 2017
Cambodia and Thailand yesterday agreed to seek more strategies to boost bilateral trade, cross border development and investment to achieve the target of $15 billion in trade exchange between the two Asean neighbours by 2020. Both countries also reached an agreement on double tax avoidance and preventing the declaration of fraudulent income to avoid tax at the Third Cambodia-Thailand Joint Cabinet Retreat at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh.

Kingdom joins group fighting tax evasion Phnom Penh Post 8th Sep 2017
Cambodia has become the 144th member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, according to a press release. Greenland, Madagascar and Haiti also joined the Global Forum at the same time, bringing the total number of members to 146. The OECD platform strives to implement international standards for the exchange of tax and financial account information both automatically and upon request to fight international tax evasion and avoidance.

Cambodia, China Sign MoU on Cooperation in the Field of Trademark and Branding AKP 7th Sep 2017
The Ministry of Commerce of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce of the People’s Republic of China reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in the Field of Trademarks and Branding in Phnom Penh on Sept. 6. The MoU was signed by H.E. Ouk Prachea, Secretary of State for Commerce, and visiting H.E. Ma Zhengqi, Vice Minister of State Administration for Industry and Commerce of China.

Nontariff barriers continue to hinder regional trade Phnom Penh Post 6th Sep 2017
While tariffs across the Asia-Pacific region have dropped over the last 20 years as a result of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, nontariff barriers such as red tape and quotas continue to hinder the economic growth of Cambodia and other countries in the region, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in a report released yesterday. The report posits that enhancing trade facilitation could stimulate trade and economic growth across the region following the demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which was intended to bring together 12 signatory Pacific Rim nations under a unified trading bloc. While Cambodia was never a member of the TPP, it stood to benefit from the enhanced regional trade it would have brought.

Russia’s Electronic Trading Platform Association seeks cooperation in e-commerce with private companies in Cambodia AKP 31st Aug 2017
Cambodian Secretary of State for Commerce H.E. Ouk Prachea received here on Aug. 29 a visiting Russian delegation led by Mr. Iliya Dimitrov, Executive Director of Association of Electronic Trading Platform (AETP), said a news release of the Ministry of Commerce. The meeting focused on the presentation of IT solution of SELDON Company and promotion of such the solutions to facilitate trade and economic cooperation between Cambodian and Russian businesses, it pointed out. Mr. Iliya Dimitrov informed H.E. Ouk Prachea about main operations and activities of SELDON such as cooperation with both private sector and the Government of Russia on provision of profile information of Russian companies and entrepreneurs and other services related to digital economy and e-commerce of private companies.

Exports to US bounce back on revised GSP Phnom Penh Post 11th Aug 2017
Exports to the US saw a modest rebound during the first half of the year, benefitting in part from new trade privileges that allow Cambodian-made travel goods to enter the world’s biggest consumer market duty-free, a Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) representative said yesterday.

Garment makers deny trade preference alarm Khmer Times 3rd Aug 2017
Garment makers yesterday sought to allay fears Cambodia could lose out on international trade preferences and tax breaks once it graduates into a lower-middle income country in the next few years. The reassurance from the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia came one day after Khmer Times and other local media reported that Cambodia could lose out on Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) tariff systems when the country becomes a “developing economy” within the next three years.

NGO report finds banned exports of logs to Vietnam increased Phnom Penh Post 24th Jul 2017
The ostensibly-outlawed export of logs to Vietnam increased in May, while the trade in sawn timber, also supposedly banned, remained substantial, new Vietnamese customs data shows. While yet again contradicting a timber export ban announced by the government in January of 2016, the figures also appear to indicate that an explosive exposé in May by the Environmental Investigation Agency had “no impact” in denting the multi-million trade on the ground, said Forest Trends analyst Phuc Xuan To.

Indonesia

Indonesia faces barriers in palm oil exports Hellenic Shipping News 28th Aug 2017
Indonesia is facing another trade barrier in its palm oil commodity exports after the one applied by European Community (EC) in April over green issue. The freshest challenge was received from the Indian government which recently increased its import duty for Indonesian crude palm oil (CPO) entering the nation by 100 percent from 7.5-15 percent.

IA - CEPA Expected to be Concluded This Year Tempo 3rd Aug 2017
Indonesian and Australian governments expect to conclude the Indonesia - Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) this year. The Indonesian and Australian government resumed the negotiation process for the IA-CEPA on July 31-August 4 in Canberra, Australia. The major issues in the IA-CEPA discussed in Canberra were goods trade, including provisions of origin of goods, customs procedure, trade facility, trade technical barriers, and sanitation; service trade, including financial services, free movement of people, and telecommunication; investment; electronic trade; and provisions of institutional framework.

U.S. Issues Affirmative Preliminary Countervailing Duty Determinations on Biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia Department of Commerce 22nd Aug 2017
Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the affirmative preliminary determinations in the countervailing duty (CVD) investigations, finding that exporters of biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia received countervailable subsidies of 50.29 to 64.17 percent and 41.06 to 68.28 percent, respectively. Commerce also determined that critical circumstances exist in both investigations, allowing for collection of duties for a retroactive period of 90 days prior to publication of the preliminary determination in the Federal Register.

Indonesia to shorten list of prohibited, restricted goods The Jakarta Post 9th Aug 2017
Indonesia is now working to shorten the list of prohibited and restricted goods and to simplify the process of verification in an attempt to reduce the dwell lime in seaports, Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution said on Tuesday. He said it was part of the implementation of the 15th economic policy package to improve logistics services as well as to cut logistics costs. The import permits of certain goods would also be regulated under the supervision of one ministry, rather than several government institutions, Darmin said.

Laos

Upgrading payment method for customs, tax, and other fees at international customs checkpoints nationwide Lao PDR Trade Portal 7th Aug 2017
The government of the Lao PDR upgrades payment method for customs, tax, and other fees at international customs checkpoint nationwide. Ministry of Finance together with Banque Pour Le Commerce Exterieur Lao Public (BCEL) had researched and developed the payment via banking system called “Smart Tax” by using a card to pay for customs, tax, and other fees instead of paying by cash. Currently, the Smart Tax is being used in 8 international customs checkpoints.

Import and Export Procedures in Laos – Best Practices ASEAN Business News 25th Jul 2017
Officially the Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), landlocked Laos borders China, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. In 2015, Laos exported US$3.81 billion worth of goods and imported US$6.54 billion. Laos’ main export destinations include Thailand, China, Vietnam, India, and Japan. Laos’ top import sources include Thailand, China, Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan. In this article we explain best practices for importing into and exporting out of Laos.

Malaysia

Malaysia Blitzes Illegal Wildlife Trade The Maritime Executive 11th Sep 2017
Thousands of elephant tusks, pangolin scales, live animals and wildlife parts have been seized across Malaysia in major wildlife crime busts. Most recent was a seizure by the Sabah Customs Department of three tons of elephant tusks and five tons of pangolin scales at the Sepanggar Port on August 29. Customs told press they believed the shipments were from Nigeria, bound for China. 

Five ports to be enhanced under alliance BorneoPost Online 5th Sep 2017
Five new ports in Malaysia and China are now part of the China-Malaysia Port Alliance (CMPA), said Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai. The ports, namely Jing Tang Port and Tianjin Port (China) and the Kemaman, Sabah and Kuching Ports will now be part of the alliance, aimed at enhancing cooperation in various disciplines. It includes port studies, training and apprenticeship, technical assistance, exchange of information and traffic development, as well as the promotion of trade services between ports. “China has the best ports in the world and this cooperation will pave the way for a brighter future for both countries in leveraging on the people’s potential and resources,” he said after officiating the one-day 2nd China-Malaysia Port Alliance Annual Meeting at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre yesterday.

Parliament passes Malaysia Border Control Agency Bill NST Online 10th Aug 2017
The Parliament today unanimously passed the Malaysia Border Control Agency (Aksem) Bill , which aims to safeguard Malaysia’s land border against smuggling or other unlawful activities. Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the law also aimed at enhancing the role of the Anti-Smuggling Unit through cooperation with various agencies by involving more personnel.

Deputy IGP confirms impending arrests of customs officers abetting secret society Malay Mail Online 5th Aug 2017
Police are most likely to arrest more individuals in connection with the case involving six Customs Department officers suspected to have helped a secret society to smuggle drugs into the country, according to Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim.

Improved port services to benefit manufacturers, says FMM NST Online 5th Aug 2017
Manufacturers will benefit from the improved port services with the completion of the second gate consisting of 14 lanes in Westports, said the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM). In a statement today, FMM said, it commended the immediate efforts by Westports Malaysia Sdn Bhd and the Customs Department to ease the recent congestion in Port Klang.

All Customs staff to take integrity test, says director-general Malay Mail Online 4th Aug 2017
The Royal Malaysian Customs Department (JKDM) will be requiring all its employees to sit for an Integrity Evaluation Test to gauge the transparency attitude of the individual according to the job scope especially for placement, promotion and to assess the personal ability of staff.

Customs Dept to conduct studies to prevent KLIA becoming smuggling hub Astro Awani 3rd Aug 2017
The Royal Malaysian Customs Department (JKDM) will be conducting a thorough study on the system and operating system at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) Customs Cargo Complex to get rid of loopholes that are being exploited by international smuggling syndicate.

MACC, customs officers can use firearms on duty, says Apandi Malay Mail Online 22nd Jul 2017
Enforcement officers from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Royal Malaysian Customs Department can use firearms while carrying out their duties  following the launch of the Use Of Firearms Guidelines (While On Duty) 2017, here yesterday. Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali said the guidelines, effective immediately, were an addition to the firearm guidelines adopted by enforcement agencies regarding the use of firearms.

Illegal cigarettes still in demand despite customs crackdown Free Malaysia Today 23rd Aug 2017
The contraband cigarette market will continue to reap the benefits of the rising price in legally sold cigarettes, despite the increased enforcement by the customs department on the illicit trade. Taking into consideration the billions in lost revenue owing to this problem, the customs department increased its enforcement activities at borders, ports and points of entry over the last six months to weed out perpetrators behind the import of illicit cigarettes, The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) reported.

Myanmar

WWF-Myanmar sounds alarm about illegal wildlife trade Myanmar Times 8th Sep 2017
WWF-Myanmar raised the alert over the intensified illegal wildlife trade in the country, which targets pangolins, bears and elephant skin.  Cases are on the rise – 28 cases led to arrests in 2013 and 34 last year. So far this year, 24 cases have been reported through August, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation. Dr Sapai Min, project manager for illegal wildlife trade for WWF-Myanmar, warned about widespread illegal wildlife trading in the border towns of Tachileik and Mong La that mostly thrive on wildlife species found in the country.

Pilot scheme speaks volumes about potential of Mae Sot-Myawaddy trade The Myanmar Times 28th Aug 2017
A pilot project which uses semi-trailer swapping with bonded cargo has halved the time needed to reach Thilawa SEZ from Thailand compared to conventional road freight. Despite numerous problems, the scheme represents a step towards efficient and barrier-free trade between Mae-Sot and Myawaddy, making cross-border logistics a potential option for a wide range of suppliers.

No more teething troubles for new customs system The Myanmar Times 21st Aug 2017
The new Myanmar Automated Cargo Clearance System (MACCS) went live across Yangon Region on November 12 last year. Despite having a trial period, the system by January had lengthened not shortened customs clearance times. Ten months since the implementation, businesses said the situation has improved, but cross-border trade are still relying on paper and pens and hence are still suffering from long delays. Tomoaki Yabe, managing director of Thilawa-based Daizen Myanmar, told The Myanmar Times that teething troubles with the new system have been resolved. 

Tax exemptions on diamonds, emeralds and gold approved The Myanmar Times 11th Aug 2017
The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw agreed on Tuesday to stop levying special commodity tax on diamonds and emeralds, as well as commercial tax on gold nuggets. Previously, 30 percent customs duty, 5pc commercial tax and 10pc special commodity tax , totaling 45pc tax, were levied on the price of imported diamonds and emeralds but now it is only 35pc without 10pc special commodity tax.

New Trademark Law Expected To Be Enacted In 2017 Mondaq 31st Jul 2017
For the past few years, Myanmar has been proactively working on the implementation of its first ever formal trademark law, keeping in mind that the new law will overhaul the nation's legal framework to encourage and motivate the industries and businesses to come and invest and grow in the country. The implementation of this new Trademark law has been projected for this year. Once the law becomes effective, practices which are currently followed by the practitioners i.e. the registration of Declarations of Ownership at the Registrar of Deeds and Assurances, which is followed by the cautionary notices published in the newspaper, will then be replaced by the new modern Trademark system which will stick to International standards set by WIPO.

Myanmar aims for trade boost with neighbouring countries with ADB help The Nation 23rd Jul 2017
Aung Soe, directorgeneral of Myanmar Trade Promotion Department (MyanTrade), said the nation would focus on reducing its trade deficit by increasing exports of rice, beans and pulses, fishery products, wooden products, garments and rubber, and by promoting tourism as a core service sector. 

Scholars point out the need for pro-active engagement of Myanmar in BIMSTEC Mizzima 2nd Sep 2017
Myanmar needs to engage more proactively with Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) grouping as it is strategically located as a gateway for Act East Policy of India as well as Look West perspective of Thailand. This was the central message of the meeting of scholars and policy makers who assembled at the invitation of the Parami Round table on the occasion of 20th anniversary of BIMSTEC.

Myanmar Not Setting Up Trading Zone At India Border NDTV.com 3rd Aug 2017
The Myanmar government will not set up a trading zone on its border with India due to insufficient basic requirements and poor potential trading, a top commerce official told the House of Representatives here. When asked by parliamentarians on Wednesday if there was a plan for the move, Deputy Commerce Minister Mr U Aung Htoo said that the Tamu trading point has been opened since 1995 but the trading value has been only $ 45 million, accounting for only 0.6 per cent of the total trade volume of all border trading points, reports Xinhua news agency.

Philippines

Use of green lane temporarily on hold PortCalls Asia 7th Sep 2017
Philippine Customs commissioner Isidro Lapeña has temporarily suspended the green lane while the Bureau of Customs’ (BOC) selectivity system is undergoing review. All shipments now have to go through either the yellow or red lanes “until such time that we will be able to perfect the system,” Lapeña said on September 6.

PH lawmaker bats for pre-shipment checks on container cargo PortCalls Asia 5th Sep 2017
Expanding the pre-shipment inspection (PSI) to containerized cargoes will not only save the government billions of pesos in personnel recruitment costs but also solve corruption in the Bureau of Customs (BOC), according to Buhay Party-list representative Lito Atienza. Atienza is asking Congress to reject the additional P4.2 billion fund being requested for BOC, to be used to fill more than 3,000 vacant positions in the agency, saying “there’s no point in wasting billions of pesos to double the number of Customs staff.”

Faeldon: Lacson's son into smuggling PortCalls Asia 25th Aug 2017
Outgoing Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon is urging Senator Richard Gordon to investigate the son of Senator Panfilo Lacson, whom he alleged was involved in smuggling activities. Faeldon, in a press conference on August 24, claimed that Bonjourno Trading, the company of the senator’s namesake, Panfilo Lacson, Jr., allegedly undervalued a shipment of cement worth P106 million by at least 50%, which was discovered by Faeldon and his team a few days after he took office in July 2016.

Duterte appoints Lapeña to replace embattled Faeldon at Customs GMA News Online 21st Aug 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday announced that Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Isidro Lapeña will be the next commissioner of the Bureau of Customs. Asked if he had already accepted Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon's resignation, he told reporters in Malacañang that it was "automatic" by putting Lapeña in the post. Duterte said police official Aaron Aquino will head the PDEA. Faeldon has been at the center of controversy at the BOC over the shipment of P6.4 billion worth of shabu, which has been under probe by both chambers of Congress. Duterte earlier revealed that Faeldon has offered to resign at least three times. Amid criticism of Faeldon from legislators, Duterte has stood by the ex-soldier, saying he didn't believe allegations of corruptions against the Customs chief. Duterte, whose campaign against drugs has been the centerpiece of his administration, expressed surprise that the BOC will be involved in drug shipment. "I did not expect na itong Bureau of Customs was also importing drugs," he said, adding that he believed that corruption at the agency was an institutional problem.

BOC collection up in first 7 months but below target PortCalls Asia 21st Aug 2017
Revenue collection by the Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) in the first seven months of the year reached P246.98 billion, an 11.48% increase from the P221.54 billion earned in the same period last year. But the seven-month collection is 3.95% short of the P257.14 billion target for the period, according to the Department of Finance, BOC’s mother agency. For July alone, BOC collected P34.82 billion, 12.35% higher than the P30.99 billion recorded in the same month last year. This, however, is 11.15% lower than the P39.18 billion target for the month.

Palace receives resignation letters of 2 Customs officials ABS-CBN News 19th Aug 2017
Malacañang on Saturday said it has received the resignation letters of two Bureau of Customs (BoC) officials. Neil Estrella, director of the bureau's intelligence and investigation services, and Milo Maestrecampo, director of import-assessment services, resigned following a congressional probe into the bureau's failure to intercept a P6.4-billion illegal-drugs shipment from China in May. Estrella quit his post on August 11 to prepare for possible charges that will be filed against him, while Maestrecampo resigned on August 8 “to fight for my honor and integrity and in the name of ‘delicadeza’.”

Filipinos in US, Canada give mixed reviews to new balikbayan box rules Inquirer 10th Aug 2017
Already embroiled in accusations of corruption, the Philippines’ Bureau of Customs (BOC) has courted controversy over its new rules on the shipment of duty-free balikbayan cargo boxes sent by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as gifts to their loved ones. Filipinos in the United States are among the overseas Filipinos giving the new Customs rules mixed reviews.

Manila wants Asean to address alarming rise of trade barriers BusinessMirror 10th Aug 2017
The government is alarmed by the rising tide of protectionism in the region in the form of nontariff barriers (NTBs), making it important for the Philippines to use its chairmanship of the Asean this year to push for the removal of these trade-distorting measures. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia and local economists stressed that the Philippines would have a better chance of boosting its exports if it will push for the removal of these NTBs in intra-Asean trade.

PH trade repository seen to improve ease of trading for MSMEs PortCalls Asia 8th Aug 2017
The Philippine National Trade Repository (PNTR), a web-based portal that provides a single source of comprehensive, accurate, and updated trade information, was launched on August 1. Its establishment is an important component of the government’s trade facilitation strategy, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said in a statement.

Faeldon fires back at House: I’ll expose you philstar.com 3rd Aug 2017
With fresh assurance of presidential support, Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon yesterday threatened to expose influence peddlers among members of the House of Representatives and other politicians whom he called shameless. He made the threat a day after President Duterte told him to stay on amid investigations by the Senate and the House of Representatives on the smuggling in May of P6.4 billion worth of shabu that got past the Port of Manila.

Ratification for Asean Single Window agreement finally signed PortCalls Asia 31st Jul 2017
The Philippines can soon exchange information on export and import shipments electronically with other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states, facilitating trade between the country and its peers in the region. President Rodrigo Duterte signed on June 28 the ratification of the Protocol on the Legal Framework (PLF) to Implement the ASEAN Single Window (ASW), which provides guidelines on the operations, interactions, and electronic processing of transactions between ASEAN member states.

Senate alleges corruption and incompetence in customs bureau over biggest haul yet of shabu smuggled into PH CNN 31st Jul 2017
Lawmakers could not hide their exasperation as they investigated on Monday the alleged involvement of the Bureau of Customs (BOC)  in a shipment of shabu from China worth P6.4 billion (US$126 million). The Senate blue ribbon committee, headed by Senator Richard Gordon is looking into possible "malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance of the officials and employees of the Bureau of Customs," it saidcustoms brokerage business.

PPA revisits TABS penalties, solicits public feedback PortCalls Asia 31st Jul 2017
The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) is reviewing the implementation of the Terminal Appointment Booking System (TABS) and its penalties as it still sees “room for improvement.” TABS is an online booking system implemented in Manila’s two international terminals—Manila South Harbor and Manila International Container Terminal (MICT).

CCBI: Anti-Agri Smuggling Act IRR needs revision PortCalls Asia 26th Jul 2017
The Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. (CCBI) is asking the Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) to amend a customs order implementing the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 to correct a definition that it claims effectively disenfranchises and outlaws customs brokers. Customs administrative order (CAO) 02-2017, issued last May, contains the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act (RA) No. 10845, or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, which declares large-scale agricultural smuggling as an act of economic sabotage and levies heftier penalties on violators of the law.

Fines for late e-air cargo manifest submissions in PH start Sept PortCalls Asia 24th Jul 2017
The Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) is planning to impose penalties on late submissions of the electronic air freight manifest by September, or three months after enforcing the switch-on mode. Management Information System and Technology Group (MISTG) deputy commissioner Gerardo Gambala, in a chance interview with PortCalls on July 21, said the penalty will finally be imposed after months of enforcement since compliance by stakeholders should have improved by now.

BOC: No legal basis to claims of jurisdiction overlap with PPA PortCalls Asia 23rd Jul 2017
The Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) emphasized there is “no legal basis” to claims its proposed rules for establishing customs facilities and warehouses (CFWs) undermine the authority of other regulatory agencies such as the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).

Replacement of Bureau of Customs being eyed Update Philippines 5th Sep 2017
The House of Representatives’ dangerous drugs committee has recommended the passage of a legislation replacing the Bureau of Customs (BOC) with a new revenue-collecting agency “to avoid corruption and increase revenue collection”. This was among the recommendations of the House panel chaired by Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers following a probe into the PHP6.4-billion peso shabu (crystal meth) shipment controversy hounding the Customs Bureau.

Customs Chief Lapeña abolishes Command Center, vows to institute reforms Philippine Bureau of Customs 4th Sep 2017
Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña signed on Thursday, August 31, the order abolishing the Command Center; he announced before the employees and officials of the Bureau of Customs in today’s flag raising ceremony held at the Port of Manila. Customs Memorandum Order No. 14-2017 has reverted to the deputy commissioners of the Intelligence Group, Enforcement Group, and all district collectors nationwide the authority to issue alert orders.

Singapore

Illegal rhino horns seized Agri-food & Veterinary Authority and Singapore Customs 1st Sep 2017
On 31 August 2017, acting on a tip-off about an attempt to smuggle illegal wildlife products through Singapore, AVA collaborated with the Singapore Customs and the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority to investigate. A 29-year-old male Vietnamese transit passenger who was flying from Dubai to Laos via Changi Airport was stopped. His luggage was inspected and eight pieces of cut rhino horns, concealed as gifts, were detected and seized.

SG testing 7-module project set to automate port operations PortCalls Asia 25th Aug 2017
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and IT company IBM announced the joint completion of the pilot trial for three modules under the MPA-IBM SAFER project, which will be rolled out progressively beginning September 2017. Project SAFER, derived from “Sense-making Analytics For Maritime Event Recognition,” is a collaboration between MPA and IBM to develop and test new analytics-based technologies aimed at improving maritime and port operations to support increasing growth in Singapore’s vessel traffic.

Singapore's plug-and-play platform to expand SMEs' market reach in Asia PortCalls Asia 31st Jul 2017
The International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore) has launched its Plug and Play Network that aims to ease the entry of Singaporean small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in key markets in Asia. IE Singapore announced July 27 the launch of the network designed to provide support to SMEs through business advisory services, business matching, and market setup via co-working spaces. The agency said the Plug and Play Network can enable SMEs to gain access to over 45 major cities across six markets, including New Delhi, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Shanghai.

Singapore Discusses Digital Economy Tax Challenges Tax-News 24th Aug 2017
Singapore is taking a three-pronged approach to tackling the international tax challenges posed by the digital economy, the country's Senior Minister for Law and Finance, Indranee Rajah, has said. Speaking at the Third Annual Conference organized by the SMU-TA Centre for Excellence in Taxation on August 17, 2017, the Minister said that Singapore is committed to providing a stable business environment for businesses by upholding international principles and participating in international tax reform efforts.

Turkey, Singapore ratify free trade agreement in significant bilateral milestone The Straits Times 21st Aug 2017
Turkey and Singapore announced on Monday (Aug 21) that they have ratified a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA), hitting a new milestone in their relationship. The agreement, which will come into force on Oct 1, was announced at a news conference at the Istana by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after meeting Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım. The Turkey-Singapore FTA (TRSFTA) signed in November 2015 is a comprehensive agreement that covers a wide range of areas including good and services, e-commerce, competition and transparency.

Thailand

Thailand deposits instrument of accession to Montreal Convention PortCalls Asia 14th Aug 2017
The Thai government has deposited to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Thailand’s instrument of accession to the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air. ICAO, a United Nations specialized agency, said  Dr. Vijavat Isarabhakdi, ambassador of Thailand to Canada and the state’s permanent representative to ICAO, made the deposit on behalf of his government August 3, 2017 at the ICAO headquarters. Thailand’s accession will enter into force on October 2, 2017.

Thais hope to get off Trump's trade hit list as Tillerson heads for Bangkok Mail Online 7th Aug 2017
Thai officials voiced hope ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of escaping U.S. pressure over the size of their trade surplus with the United States as their figures point to a jump in imports, but U.S. data shows little change.

Thailand: New and Improved Penalty Scheme under the 2017 Thai Customs Act Lexology 6th Sep 2017
Businesses involved with the Thai customs clearance process have been anxiously awaiting changes aimed at improving customs laws. These long-awaited changes come with the passage of the Customs Act BE 2560 (2017). The new act, which will take effect from Nov. 13, 2017, repeals the outdated and controversial Customs Act BE 2469 (1926) and its prior amendments and seeks to address many of its shortcomings. This article focuses on the substantial revisions to the Customs Act's penalty scheme, revisions that will have a direct impact on both businesses and individuals.

ICE, Kingdom of Thailand, Department of Special Investigation sign MOU to combat transnational crime ICE 29th Aug 2017
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Thailand Ministry of Justice’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) August 24, to establish cooperation in combating transnational crime. ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan and DSI Director General Paisit Wongmuang signed the MOU in a ceremony held at ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C. Additional participants from ICE and DSI were in attendance.

Vietnam

Vietnam To Introduce Customs Bond To Facilitate Customs Clearance Vietnam Briefing 12th Sep 2017
Vietnam will be introducing a customs bond system to facilitate customs clearance and reform import and export procedures. The joint project launched by the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation (GATF) and Vietnam Private Sector Forum (VPSF) on 1st September will help in modernizing the import and export administrative procedures. GATF will work with local government agencies and monitor the Vietnam Automated Cargo and Port Consolidated System (VNACCS) and Vietnam Customs Information System (VCIS) to assist in implementing the new system.

VAT increase could add $3.1bn to State budget in 2019 Vietnam Net 11th Sep 2017
A recently-announced tax reform proposal from the Ministry of Finance (MoF) will result in both revenue losses and gains, with State budget revenue to improve rapidly in the near term thanks to the high tax base from value-added tax (VAT) and environmental protection tax payments, RongViet Securities wrote in a September report. The tax hikes, including two drafts on amending and supplementing the Law on Environmental Protection Tax and the current laws on five types of tax - VAT, special sales tax, corporate income tax, personal income tax, and natural resources tax - is the latest solution the MoF has come up to tackle rising public debt and State budget losses.

Doubling of imported used car tax proposed Vietnam Net 11th Sep 2017
The draft was recently issued by the Ministry of Finance to gather ideas from other sectors. Deputy Head of the Tax Policy Department, Nguyen Thi Thanh Hang, said it was meant to minimise the import of used cars and contribute to developing the domestic automobile industry. He also said the tax rate on most imported used cars with nine seats and less was currently lower than that to which Viet Nam is committed with the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Therefore, the ministry has proposed an increase to the highest level acceptable. The draft shows that for vehicles of 2,500cc or more, SUVs, sport cars and passenger cars (excluding vans), they will have a mixed tax rate calculation.The taxable price of used cars multiplies by 200 per cent or 150 per cent plus $10,000. As for other vehicles, the taxable price multiplies by the import tax rate on the new automobile of the same type, plus $15,000.

Vietnam seizes over 1 ton of ivory smuggled in from Africa Washington Post 6th Sep 2017
Authorities have seized more than a ton of smuggled ivory at a Vietnamese port where some 6 tons were seized last year. Customs official Le Dinh Loi in Ho Chi Minh City said the ivory seized Wednesday in Cat Lai port had been packed with sawdust and layers of plasters and asphalt to hide it. He said Thursday the container held 1,356 kilograms (2,983 pounds) of ivory smuggled from Africa and was transiting through Vietnam to its destination in neighboring Cambodia. Vietnam bans hunting of its own dwindling elephant population but is one of the world’s major transit points and consumers of ivory and rhino horn. Ivory is used as jewelry and home decoration.

Smuggling persists in provinces bordering with Cambodia VietNamNet 29th Aug 2017
With many rivers, paddy fields and thousands of easily-crossed trails, An Giang, Kien Giang and Dong Thap provinces are ripe for the illegal trade of goods between the two foreign countries and Vietnam, the online dantri.com.vn reported. “Goods smuggling and trade fraud happens most frequently in An Giang province during the flood season,” Colonel Ly Ke Tung, deputy commander of An Giang border guard was quoted as saying.

Highlight on documents posted in the second week of Aug 2017 on customs e-Portal Vietnam Customs 22nd Aug 2017
When making classification for this item (except for cases subject to tax exemption and non-taxation), samples must be sent for analysis and inspection to identify whether item is non-woven fabric made from artificial filaments or not to determine appropriate HS code. In the official Letter no. 5223/TCHQ-TXNK dated 07 Aug 2017, the General Department of Customs asked local departments to take samples for analysis to classify these types of fabrics.

Highlight on documents posted in first week of Aug 2017 on the customs e-Portal Vietnam Customs 17th Aug 2017
The General Department of Vietnam Customs (GDVC) issued the official Letter no. 5002/TCHQ-TXNK dated 27 July 2017, guiding on import duty rate and VAT for importing Singapore used ships for oil and chemicals transport. On proposal of an enterprise and Ho Chi Minh Customs Department’s report, The General Department of Vietnam Customs issued the official Letter no. 5112/TCHQ-TXNK dated 02 Aug 2017 for guidance on VAT refund due to mistake payment.

New temporary import for re-export regulations next month Vietnamnews 11th Aug 2017
The Ministry of Industry and Trade has issued a new circular on temporary import for re-export and temporary export for re-import, which will take effect from September 11. Under Circular 11/2017/TT-BCT, temporary import and re-export must be conducted at international and major border gates. Re-exporting through small border gates or border crossings is only allowed at border economic zones or at certain gates with adequate control.

Willingness to deploy the “airway single window” Customs News 7th Aug 2017
The Customs Department of Hanoi is selected as the first unit to implement the national airway single window mechanism and the Project on supervision of air cargo (belonging to General Project of the General Department of Customs on management and supervision of goods in seaports and airports) by the General Department of Customs. 

Health enterprises join the National Single Window: Saving time, cost and human resources Customs News 6th Aug 2017
According to Mr. Nguyen Minh Tuan, the Director of the Department of Medical Equipment and Health Facilities (under the Ministry of Health), from 30th November 2015, the Ministry of Health has coordinated with the General Department of Vietnam Customs to officially carry out procedures for granting import paper for medical equipment on the National Single Window (NSW) system for importers of these items nationwide.

Finance Ministry refuses to cut coal import tax Vietnamnet 31st Jul 2017
The Ministry of Finance has proposed increasing import duty on coal instead of reducing it for the Vietnam National Coal - Mineral Industries Group (Vinacomin). The ministry has proposed the Government increase import duty on coal to 3% or 5% from the current 0%. The volume of coal inventories of the group had reached 9.5 million tons by May.

Consultation for draft revised Decree 08/2015 / ND CP Customs News 21st Jul 2017
On July 18th, 2017 in Ho Chi Minh City, the Deputy Director General of Vietnam Customs Nguyen Cong Binh chaired the conference on consultation for the draft revised Government’s Decree 08/2015/ND-CP specifying the implementation of the Customs Law. Mr. Nguyen Nhat Kha, Deputy Director of Customs Control and Supervision Department said that on the basis of 111 articles in Decree No. 08/2015/ND-CP, 67 articles will be amended and supplemented, 9 articles will be supplemented and 3 articles related to 28 issues will be abolished in the revised Decree.

Vietnam Customs holds dialogue with European businesses Viet Nam News 5th Sep 2017
The General Department of Vietnam Customs held a dialogue with European businesses in HCM City on August 30 to help clear customs issues of their concern, especially customs revaluation. The European Union (EU) holds a major proportion of trade and investment in Việt Nam. Bilateral trade jumped almost 11 times from US$4.1 billion in 2000 to $45 billion in 2016 and is forecast to hit $50 billion this year.

Highlight on documents posted on e-customs Portal in the 4th week of Aug 2017 Vietnam Customs 5th Sep 2017
Tax issues, classification of goods, temporary importation for re-exportation, certificates of origin, goods sent via postal service, express delivery ... are the main contents of the documents posted on the customs e-Portal in the 4th week of August 2017. Guiding for implementation of Decision no.15/2017/QD-TTg on goods sent via postal and express couriers, the General Department of Customs issued official letter no.5384/TCHQ-GSQL dated 15 Aug 2017. As the Decision no.15/2017/QD-TTg does not specify location of customs clearance for imported goods sent via postal and express couriers, Customs Branch on express delivery and enterprises continue to carry out customs procedures in accordance with Circular no. 49/2015/TT-BTC dated 14 Apr 2015 and Circular no.191/2015/TT-BTC dated 24 Nov 2015 for goods specified in Article 1 of Decision no.15/2017/QD-TTg being sent via post or express couriers until new guiding documents are issued.

Modern bond project launched to facilitate customs clearance in Vietnam Nhan Dan 2nd Sep 2017
This is the start of the GATF Technical Assistance Project with the Government of Vietnam to provide a viable solution for the country to implement its World Trade Organisation (WTO) commitments, as well as Resolution 19 on improving the national competitiveness and business environment through the cooperation effort between GATF, VPSF and other units of the Ministry of Finance, the General Department of Vietnam Customs and the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council on Reform of Administrative Procedures, related to State management of import and export goods and specialised inspection of goods.

China Is Boosting Its Phishing Attacks — Against Vietnam BuzzFeed 22nd Aug 2017
Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, with Chinese President Xi Jinping in May during an international conference near Beijing. A Chinese government hacker group appears to be peppering Vietnamese bureaucrats with phishing emails in attempts to gain advantage in upcoming trade talks. A country like China sending out scattershot attempts to spy on foreign government computers is commonplace, experts say. But the Chinese assault on Vietnamese officials, detailed in a report by US cybersecurity firm FireEye, offers a reminder of how cyber espionage has become an everyday tactic across the world as nations search for ways to gain economic and strategic advantage in relations of all types.

Vietnamese garment firms not fully benefiting from FTAs Fibre2Fashion 8th Aug 2017
At a recent seminar in Ho Chi Minh City, the experts observed that the firms in the country that have taken advantage of FTA breaks belong to the FDI sector. Garments and textiles comprise Vietnam’s key exports.