The US-ASEAN Business Council hosted a Tech in Trade capacity building workshop on September 28, 2021. The workshop addressed the various customs policy challenges that exist today across ASEAN, and how the adoption of cutting-edge technologies can not only alleviate burdens on customs officers but also accelerate trade and recovery goals, while creating broad-based, sustainable, and inclusive socio-economic growth. The workshop also served as an opportunity for the U.S. private sector and other stakeholders across the region to share knowledge and best practices with ASEAN Customs officials and border agencies toward full, contactless, electronic customs processes in a post COVID-19 world.
In his welcome remarks, Ambassador Michael Michalak, the Council’s Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director, highlighted “the global pandemic has accelerated digital economy trends across the region, requiring rapid and coordinated responses from customs and border agencies to facilitate cross-border e-commerce, advanced clearance processes and timely delivery of essential goods. Digital customs solutions will provide an effective contactless clearance towards safe resumption of businesses.”
Mr. Lee Boon Chong, the Senior Assistant Director-General (Trade) of Singapore Customs, welcomed the Council’s efforts to engage and partner with ASEAN Customs administrations. He highlighted the important role played by customs administrations in expediting the movement of essential goods during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in promoting economic recovery through trade facilitation. He also acknowledged that, “the pandemic has presented opportunities for both regulatory authorities and the private sector to review and streamline processes, and explore ways to increase the adoption of digital technology to enhance resiliency.”
The Council’s Customs and Trade Facilitation Committee Chair, Ms. Shiumei Lin, Vice President of Public Affairs and Sustainability at UPS Asia Pacific, emphasized the importance of public-private collaboration to resolve stresses developing in border clearance caused by the rapid growth of e-commerce. “The tsunami of packages, large volumes of low value shipments, new players of trade, new business models, and risks, quickly became the everyday challenges of ASEAN Customs. Transformative technology and close collaboration with the private sector can help border agencies make smarter data-driven decisions to protect our borders while facilitating trade,” she said in her remarks.
This was echoed by Mr. Nantha Govindasamy, Director of International Trade Policies at Intel Corporation, who is also the Vice Chair of the Council’s Customs and Trade Facilitation Committee. He underscored that, “the convergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Confidential Computing, and data-centric, high-performance computing is an enormous opportunity to address some of the world’s biggest challenges and an important catalyst for economic opportunity, especially as it relates to the facilitation of intelligent trade.”
The workshop featured three panel discussions on (i) the means to enhance risk management for incoming shipments; (ii) the ways to ease customs declaration and clearance processes while optimizing data use and technology; and (iii) the facilitation of revenue collection for low value shipped goods. Three lead speakers from UPS, Intel Inc. and the Global Express Association identified problem statements of today’s cross-border trade landscape, followed by interactive discussions with expert panelists from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, Netherlands Embassy, Australia Department of Home Affairs, U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), World Customs Organization, US-ABC member companies, including Intel Inc. and Microsoft, as well as private sector champions such as Borsetta and Lily of the Valley.
The workshop was attended by more than 100 participants representing the Customs agencies of all 10 ASEAN nations and the U.S. business community.