Presenting at the first meeting of Cambodia’s National Committee on Trade Facilitation

Cambodia's National Committee on Trade Facilitation meeting

I had a great privilege to present the upcoming trade project under the funding support of the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation and implemented in Cambodia by Swisscontact; at the kick-off meeting of Cambodia’s National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF) on 11 October 2021. The NCTF is an inter-agency mechanism newly established in 2020, to facilitate smooth and effective implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA)’s provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Its secretariat sits with the Cambodian Customs, or the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE).

Big congratulation to the NCTF Secretariate for organizing this kick-off meeting of NCTF. The meeting officially adopts the Roadmap on Trade Facilitation 2022-2025 which lays out the progress of the WTO-TFA implementation and future work plan. The meeting brought together representatives of other government agencies and private sectors who are members of the NCTF for exchange on further progressing Cambodia’s commitments under the TFA. At least 8 development partners were also invited to present and discuss their related technical and financial assistance in trade facilitation in Cambodia.

The Swisscontact project, Improving Small Package e-Trade for SMEs (SeT4SME), works alongside GDCE and Cambodia Post to enable Electronic Advance Data (EAD), a system that sends customs and security information electronically before the arrival of a package to the destination country, to end the burdensome paper processes and thus facilitate more rapid customs clearance of small packages sent through the Post.

Thanks to the internet, the world has been selling and buying products online and across national borders. The international trade is no longer the big company club but the trend that we see now is more and more small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are seizing the opportunities in global markets. Today, millions of low-value and small packages are crossing borders worldwide. That said, in the real big picture standpoint, customs procedures and systems are still designed for high value and big shipments, and very likely the case is that only big traders understand them. It remains complex for small businesses. The growth in cross-border e-trade will be a big boost to global trade and thus contribute to the post-pandemic recovery. In the meantime, that also means customs administrations are facing bigger challenges in getting the resource they need to process and clear so many parcels.

With advanced sharing of postal shipment information electronically through enabling of EAD, customs will have sufficient time to process the data of the inbound shipment against risk selection criteria before their arrival and be able to also provide pre-departure advice about the action to be taken with respect to any given outbound shipment. This will also contribute to expediting the customs release of shipments.

With the digitizing of customs clearance processes applying to small packages sent through the post, SMEs in Cambodia will find it easier, quicker, and more cost-effective to send their items internationally. To promote the small package exports from Cambodia, the project aims to also make it easier for SMEs to find and understand trade-related information, thanks to the new online portal to be developed under the project support to enable businesses to better navigate export rules and regulations. The project has inbuilt awareness raising and capacity support activities for the Customs, Cambodia Post, and SMEs to ensure the benefits of trade facilitation support can ripple through an entire economy.

In terms of anticipated project outcomes in relation to WTO TFA, the project also contributes to progressing Cambodia’s commitment Art. 7.1 on Pre-Arrival Processing, specifically on the postal consignments, and Art. 8.2 on Border Agency Cooperation, specifically between customs administration and postal operator. These two TFA measures are under Category C which implies the need for technical and financial assistance.

Photo Credits: NCTF working team

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