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Digital platform improves customs clearance

The Asean Single Window - implemented in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam on Jan 1 - expedites cargo clearance and reduces paperwork.

Once the Asean Single Window is working smoothly across the region, it will accelerate the release of cargo and help businesses cut transaction costs and time.

COMPANIES across Asean are benefitting from smoother regional trade, thanks to a digital platform that simplifies customs clearance.

Traders can now handle all cross-border customs documentation through the platform Asean Single Window (ASW), which will expedite cargo clearance and reduce paperwork.

The platform went 'live' on Jan 1, 2018, for five Asean member states: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The ASW provides a secure IT architecture and the legal framework in enabling trade, transport and commercial data to be exchanged electronically among government agencies or within the trading community.

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The platform is part of efforts to transform Asean into a single market and production base.

Trade facilitation measures - such as the ASW, the harmonisation and integration of customs procedures, as well as the removal of tariffs and nontariff barriers - are key to the free flow of goods and services within Asean.

The benefits of the ASW are likely to be uneven in the initial years. For instance, while it takes only about six to 10 days for goods to be exported out of Malaysia or Singapore, some Asean countries take double the time.

But once the single window is working smoothly across the region, it will accelerate the release of cargo and help businesses cut transaction costs and time.

Benefits to businesses

  • Almost paperless clearance in Asean.
  • More efficient and predictable supply chain management.

The use of electronic regulatory or commercial data will improve national track-and-trace capabilities and provide traders a more predictable environment.

  • Robust legal framework.

The ASW Legal Framework Agreement will include provisions for data protection and confidentiality, acceptance of electronic signatures, use of electronic evidence in judicial proceedings, and legal liability, among others.

  • Data re-use.

The ASW will make it easier for traders to re-use data - for example, to automatically derive customs declaration from commercial documents, freight papers and export declaration.

  • Reduced cost of doing business.

Electronic exchange of data will reduce traders' costs, including costs for couriers, storage, documentation errors and cash flow.

Benefits to governments

  • Improved compliance.

The ASW's electronic environment ensures operational transparency and promotes compliance.

  • Improved risk and profile management.

Officials will be able to cross-reference government and commercial cross-border documents against national relational databases and other intelligence systems.

  • Mutual recognition agreements.

The ASW gives member states an opportunity to gradually rely on one another's control systems. This means if a check has already been conducted in one country, it will not be repeated in another country.

  • Predictability.

As the clearance process becomes paperless, governments will be able to offer traders a more predictable and efficient environment.

  • Disaster management.

In the event of a disaster, the ASW can be used to expedite clearance of relief supplies by allowing electronic exchange of key data among agencies.

Singapore's priorities

Singapore aims to work towards full implementation of the ASW by remaining member states as part of its 2018 Asean chairmanship.

Trade facilitation is one of five key economic areas Singapore will focus on during its chairmanship - this includes efforts in implementing regional schemes such as the ASW and an Asean-wide, self-certification regime.

Another key priority of Singapore's Asean chairmanship year involves encouraging innovation and developing the digital economy. Singapore will work on developing e-commerce trade rules, lowering barriers to entry for firms, and developing digital connectivity in the region.

By some estimates, the Asean digital economy has the potential to grow to US$200 billion by 2025, with e-commerce accounting for US$88 billion.

A third priority is pushing forward long-standing efforts to deepen services integration in the region and reduce obstacles to investment. One such effort is the Asean Trade in Services Agreement, which Singapore will work towards concluding.

Next, in energy security, the city-state will work to cultivate a conducive regulatory environment and promote cooperation. It will also aim to build up the region's capabilities in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Finally, Singapore will pursue deeper ties between Asean and its external partners.