Seventh SASEC Customs Subgroup Meeting
30-31 Jul 2018
The Seventh SASEC Customs Subgroup Meeting (SCS-7) was held on 30-31 July 2018 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. In his Keynote Address, Dr. R. H. S. Samaratunga, Secretary of Treasury of Sri Lanka, stressed the importance of Customs reforms in reducing the cost and time for doing trade, and boosting competitiveness of SASEC countries and their integration with global and regional markets. Mrs. P. S. M. Charles, Director General of Sri Lanka Customs, delivered the Inaugural Address, which highlighted the progress in SASEC cooperation in trade facilitation, particularly through member countries’ concerted efforts at Customs modernization and reform. Mr. Sanjaya Mudalige, Director General, National Planning Department of Sri Lanka, opened the Meeting and thanked participants for their contributions to improving Customs operations to enhance subregional trade. Mrs. Sri Widowati, Country Director, Asian Development Bank (ADB) Sri Lanka Resident Mission, reiterated ADB’s commitment to support the SCS in future priorities
Outcomes of the SCS-7 Meeting include:
- A discussion on subregional and national projects implemented by the SASEC countries under the SCS Work Plan 2014-2018, and designed to ensure sustainable progress in moving toward modernized and harmonized Customs operations in South Asia;
- Review of ongoing and proposed projects in priority areas of trade facilitation of the SASEC Operational Plan 2016-2025;
- Review of pilot initiatives in electronic cargo tracking systems (ECTS) that involved transit cargo of Bhutan and Nepal through India, facilitation of off-border clearances in India, and potential application of ECTS in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives;
- Sharing of findings from the SASEC Coordinated Development of Border Infrastructure Study, which identifies and provides recommendations to address infrastructural, institutional, procedural, and other issues, including ICT, at nine pairs of land Customs stations;
- Approval of a study on cross-border trade facilitation routes, where the issues affecting trade along at a given border point/route are identified and appropriate solutions designed to resolve them;
- Sharing of the findings and recommendations of the SASEC diagnostic studies on sanitary-phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade that highlight common regulatory/legislative, institutional and infrastructure issues;
- Review of SCS capacity-building outcomes for the past year, focused on implementing World Trade Organization (WTO) members’ commitments under the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), and review of completed and planned capacity building activities of the World Customs Organization (WCO) in South Asia, coordinated with ADB;
- Endorsement of a multiyear knowledge-sharing program – the SASEC-National Academy of Customs, Indirect taxes & Narcotics Memorandum of Intent Implementation Plan – designed to enhance SASEC countries’ efforts to comply with the provisions of the WTO TFA.
The Meeting was chaired by Mrs. P. S. M. Charles and co-chaired by Mr. Masato Nakane, Economist, South Asia Regional Department, ADB.
A Learning Event on 31 July 2018 focused on sharing knowledge in the design and implementation of Coordinated Border Management (CBM), understanding the impact of CBM on trade facilitation and border management; and identifying critical success factors for effective implementation of CBM. Resources persons from WCO, India Revenue Service (Customs), Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, and Finnish Customs shared experiences and led open discussions with the SASEC delegations.
The SCS-7 was attended by SASEC Customs officials, resource persons, and ADB staff and consultants.