Media Release - AMCHAM T&T: Enhance Trade Facilitation to Improve The Ease Of Doing Business

The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) hosted a Webinar on “The Ease of Doing Business – Trade Modernization” to facilitate greater dialogue between Customs and the business community to improve the trade facilitation process in T&T.

AMCHAM T&T is empathetic to the challenges Customs is currently facing having to balance revenue collection and maintain border security within the current economic climate while doing both in the context of trade facilitation. However, the approach that is being met with right now from Customs does not place customer service and trade facilitation at the level of priority that we would like to see.

Currently, the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business ranks T&T at 105 out of 190 countries. AMCHAM T&T considers this ranking a worrisome position for T&T that needs urgent attention if we want to create a business-friendly environment to attract investors, as well as to create the opportunities for businesses to become more efficient.

“We cannot talk about attracting investment if we do not have the conditions to attract investment. If the fundamentals are not there to support investment, the investment will be hard to come by,” says Nirad Tewarie, AMCHAM T&T CEO. “It will be state-driven, largely drive us further into debt and that is not the kind of economic development that is sustainable and that will create the kind of future and society that we want. So, we have to improve where we sit on the Ease of Doing Business ranking, and that means the trade facilitation component of our economy needs radical improvement.”

Fernando Peña, Director of Customs and Regulatory Affairs at DHL says there is a roadmap that T&T should consider that would enhance the trade facilitation process. He recommends 1) publishing regulations that would provide legal certainty and allow traders to provide input on what is feasible operationally while providing guidance to customs officials. He says we also need to consider 2) a de minimis exemption to save on customs’ inspection and processing resources; 3) involve the private sector more in the development of procedures and regulations; and 4) simplify border procedures with fewer formalities such as removing data elements from customs declarations and expanding the values under which traders need to use a broker for customs transactions. “These measures would really expedite trading and free up inspectional resources and post-entry audits,” Peña says.

He says DHL has the data when shipments leave their points of origins before arriving at their destinations which can be submitted to Customs authorities for 5) pre-arrival processing. This can free up a lot of resources once the shipment arrives and allows for a 6) separate release from clearance for low-risk shipments to be released immediately on arrival. The clearance payment process can be facilitated by electronic transmission of customs transactions and a built-in risk management system that detects trends through time that can inform authorities of risky shipments. He also advocated for the 7) coordination of border agencies to establish a single window where traders submit information into one electronic data interface, and finally to 8) adopt measures for trusted traders where they are asked to provide information concerning their supply chains and other operations so the authorities can allow expedited treatment to such traders at the border, once trust is established.

Meanwhile, Earl Anthony Stewart Jnr - Director for Planning and Research at the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) said numerous reform initiatives have helped improve the trade facilitation process and enhanced the ease of doing business in Jamaica. Stewart said this is a testament to the leadership from the Prime Minister Andrew Holness and the strategic plan laid out by the Jamaican government to get Jamaica into the top ten countries with respect to the Ease of Doing Business.

In the past year, Jamaica has adopted a multi-sectoral approach using a national development plan that covers every single sector with strategic initiatives and outcomes that guide what all ministries and departments are doing. “It is the ambitious vision of wanting to see improvement and wanting to get in that top 10 that led to several strategic moves that now see Jamaica ranking at 71 and the number one ranking in the Caribbean,” says Stewart Jr.

“We have established the National Competitiveness Council with the mandate to spearhead and manage business reform in Jamaica. The council is mandated quarterly to submit progress reports on issues that need to be addressed to improve the Ease of Doing Business in Jamaica. The Trade Facilitation Taskforce has also been set up which monitors the inspection for a single entity that aims to create efficiency in doing business and to speed up trade. The goal is to make Jamaica the place where people want to live and raise families,” says Stewart Jr.

He says Jamaica customs has been partnering with other entities to drive reform to enable both the improvement and realization of trade facilitation. Jamaica customs is achieving this through the recently implemented ASYCUDA system which has improved trade facilitation within Jamaica especially with respect to performance measurements and the ability to eliminate the number of manual processes. Partnerships with the port authority and the government have resulted in the Port Community System that facilitates the easy sharing of information between the relevant agencies. Also, Jamaica Customs is the implementing entity for the Jamaica Single Window for Trade (JSWIFT) which serves as an electronic platform that allows traders to submit transactional information through a single access point.

Also, Dr Krista Lucenti who is a Senior Specialist in the Trade and Investment Division of the IDB based in Trinidad and Tobago says trade facilitation can be improved by greater collaboration and dialogue between the private and public sector. “It really does depend on leadership within the governments, not just in customs but also within the private sector. Customs has an interest for facilitating the trade to compliant traders and reducing the risk related to noncompliance. And compliant actors in the private sector also have an interest in eliminating fraudulent activities because that just leads to more control for everyone which is an increased cost for compliant traders. When the private sector and customs see that their interests aligned then there is space for programs like the Authorize Economic Operator or Trusted Trader Programme which then provides the opportunity for dialogues and the alignment of interests.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Patricia Aveitia who is the CBP embedded Advisor in Trinidad & Tobago’s Customs and Excise Division of the Ministry of Finance says CBP is currently assisting T&T with best practice approaches around technological advancements. She outlines the use of non-intrusive technology, a largescale x-ray system to expedite more cargo, and a canine programme to increase border enforcement as some of the measures currently being looked at by CBP and the Customs Division.

“The Ease of Doing Business – Trade Modernization” Webinar was coordinated by AMCHAM T&T’s Express Logistics Committee. AMCHAM T&T would like to thank our Platinum Sponsor Ezone Logistics for their support to host this Webinar. AMCHAM T&T remains strongly committed to our members and the wider business community as we continue to work on your behalf through these challenging times.

For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T at 

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