UNDA Project on Customs-to Customs (C2C) electronic information exchange for transit
Strengthening the capacities of developing countries and countries with economies in transition to facilitate legitimate border crossing, regional cooperation and integration
Three years (2013-2015)
Developing countries and countries with economies in transition, particularly Contracting Parties to the TIR Convention
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE/Transport Division)
The objective of the project is to strengthen the capacities of developing countries and countries with economies in transition to facilitate legitimate border crossing, by means of increased secure electronic exchange of information between Customs administrations. Simultaneously, the project will further secure the supply chain and the government revenues related to the international transport of goods. Ultimately, this project will contribute to increasing the cooperation between Customs administrations and promote the use of international standard electronic messages, in particular, for transit operations.
On the basis of existing international standards on transit related information, such as those used and defined in the framework of the eTIR project, the project will deliver a Customs-to-Customs (C2C) exchange platform. Moreover, at least five pilot countries will be provided with technical assistance contracts to connect their ICT systems with the newly developed platform. Furthermore, technical workshops to be held in each region will build capacity of developing countries and countries with economies in transition to maximise the benefits offered by the C2C exchange platform, to increase their electronic exchange of Customs information with neighbouring countries as well as to adopt international standards when it comes to electronic messages. Such cross-border electronic exchange of transit related Customs information will not only streamline border crossing procedures but also improve risk management. The adoption of existing international standards for electronic transit related messages will also be promoted and will further facilitate the work of transport operators.
Expert groups, workshops and a seminar will ensure during the whole project the exchange of best practices, capacity building and, at the end, the dissemination of the project results. The pilot countries will serve as examples and there experience will encourage additional countries to link up to the C2C exchange platform with the view to, ultimately, fully computerize transit operations globally.
The proposal is consistent with the scope and priorities of the strategic frameworks for 2012-2013 of relevant subprograms of UNECE, UNESCAP, UNECA, UNESCWA and UNECLAC and is directly linked to the Internationally Agreed Development Goals (IADGs), including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Development Agenda.
The project builds on the experience of the UNECE Working Party on Customs Questions affecting Transport (WP.30) and, in particular, eight years of work of the Informal Ad hoc Expert Group on Conceptual and Technical Aspects of Computerization of the TIR Procedure (WP.30/GE.1).
Crossing borders has always been a problem in international transport and trade. Despite recent improvements, international transport still faces obstacles, costs and difficulties at borders. Border crossing problems most severely affect landlocked developing countries, as they seriously impede access of those countries to the global market and lead to substantial losses for their national economies. The competitiveness of those countries is undermined by cumbersome Customs and other control procedures. Overall, limitations to trade and transport facilitation are detrimental to economic growth, regional cooperation and integration.
Control authorities at borders face security challenges related to smuggling, terrorism, illegal trade and immigration. In view of the large volume of cross-border transport operations nowadays, Customs authorities are no longer in a position to control every vehicle or container. Instead, they have to apply risk management and identify high risk consignments on the basis of data available. However, the data provided for risk analysis in a given country could potentially be falsified or intended to mislead Customs officials. Often, the most reliable data on the goods transported is available at the Customs offices of departure at the origin of a transit movement following an export procedure. To the extent possible, these data should be captured and then made available to the Customs authorities of transit and destination countries through a common Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) system, prior to the arrival of the goods. The availability of advance electronic cargo information and the establishment of C2C network arrangements have been identified as cornerstones of the global supply chain security by the World Customs Organization.
Today, only a few international conventions provide a legal basis for the exchange of information related to the international transport of goods. Among those, the Customs Convention on the International Transport of Goods under Cover of TIR Carnets (TIR Convention) has the broadest geographical scope (67 countries worldwide). The exchange of electronic information is being addressed in the framework of the so-called eTIR project, which has been administered by UNECE since 2002. The eTIR project aims at full computerization of the TIR procedure and will eventually replace Customs paper documents by the exchange of electronic messages. The requirements of the necessary electronic systems have already been determined, including the establishment of a centralized C2C information network.
On the basis of the work already done by the eTIR project and its innovations, the proposed project aims at implementing and strengthening the capacity to use a versatile C2C information network in up to five pilot developing countries and countries with economies in transition with their neighbouring countries and trading partners. This will ensure a secure exchange of information related to goods in transit, inter alia those under cover of the TIR procedure. The network will be designed to facilitate, in the long term, the exchange of C2C and Business-to-Customs (B2C) information globally. The sustainability of such a network could easily be ensured by means of a minimal fee-for-use that would provide the necessary funds for the maintenance of the system. The secure electronic exchange of C2C information will lead to increased security and reduced border crossing delays.
The development of the European Union (EU) New Computerised Transit System (NCTS) as well as various national computerized transit systems (e.g. the Turkish Bilge system) have proved that paper-based transit systems can be efficiently replaced by electronic procedures. So far, these different national and regional systems do not communicate with each other when goods are transported beyond national or regional borders, except in a few cases where bilateral agreements have been signed (e.g. EU and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries in the framework of the Common Transit Convention). Consequently, international transit systems, TIR being the best, if not the only, example of truly international transit, rely on old-fashioned paper documentation where information is keyed in and extracted manually by both transport operators and Customs officers.
Developing countries and countries with economies in transition could greatly benefit from increased and more secure international inland transport. However, despite numerous bilateral, multilateral or international agreements, border crossing remains a major obstacle to fast and cost effective inland transport of goods (See, for example, "Overcoming Border Bottlenecks. The Costs and Benefits of Trade Facilitation", OECD Trade Policy Studies, OECD, February 2009). The lack of effective and efficient risk assessment methods remains one of the factors leading to unnecessarily long waiting times at Customs offices and triggers in some countries an extensive and expensive use of Customs escorts. Moreover, limitation in the levels of current international guarantees together with frequent miss-declaration and undervaluation undermines the potential of revenue collection linked, in particular, with import taxes and duties.
While national electronic Customs systems are a prerequisite for the establishment of efficient risk assessment procedures, timely and reliable data are required to adequately assess the risks related to international transport and ultimately reduce the losses in government revenues. Today, the supply chain is largely computerized, but Customs still largely rely on paper based documents, like the TIR Carnet, to obtain the information necessary to assess the risks. Furthermore, when additional data are required or when information is required prior to the arrival of the goods, e.g. security requirements, countries set up ad-hoc, non-harmonized regulations. The different systems for providing advanced cargo information in EU countries and in the Russian Federation are recent examples of this practice. The lack of cooperation between countries with regard to data exchange together with the absence of international standards to be used is consequently a direct cause of inadequate risk assessment.
In parallel, the lack of collaboration and standards opens the doors to corruption practices, which have severe negative effects on government revenues. Simultaneously, the lack of collaboration between countries forces each and every country along the supply chain to process information from paper documents, thus wasting resources that could further improve risk assessment and, ultimately, reduce the number of smuggling cases.
The electronic exchange of transit information among Customs administrations will have multiple impacts on the direct beneficiaries of this project, i.e. (a) legitimate international trade and transport companies, (b) Customs administrations and other cross-border agencies and (c) organizations and companies providing guarantees, thus securing the payment of duties and taxes of goods in transit in case of irregularities.
Furthermore, international trade and transport are key vectors of economic development. Through increased competition they are of benefit to consumers and, thanks to increased exports volumes, they generally ensure additional revenues for producers. This project, in view of its objective to further facilitate and secure the cross border movement of goods, including the reduction of delays at border crossings, will ultimately not only impact most economic sectors in the countries involved but will also increase the purchasing power and well-being of citizens.
The activities undertaken in the framework of this project have two major expected results, the increased use of international standards, in particular when it comes to the submission of B2C electronic information, as well as the increased collaboration between Customs of different countries and C2C exchange of relevant electronic information.
- Activity 1 Delivering a first inter-regional Expert Group Meeting (two days) aimed at the assessment of the legal and technical needs of candidate developing countries and countries with economies in transition to extend the exchange of electronic information with other countries (“gap” analysis). The linkages with major existing national and regional computerized transit systems will also be assessed and explored. On the basis of studies to be prepared by independent consultants, the Expert Group will determine the selection criteria and nominate at least five pilot countries.
- Activity 2 Development and deployment of a secure C2C versatile electronic exchange platform, taking due account of the specific challenges faced by developing countries and countries with economies in transition.
- Activity 3 Provision of technical assistance to national experts in at least five pilot countries to link national or regional Customs IT systems (e.g. ASYCUDA) to the C2C exchange platform or to development of an Action Plan setting out the steps needed to introduce a new C2C platform to exchange information and ensure its sustainability over time.
- Activity 4 Deliverance of five technical workshops (two days) to build capacity of developing countries and countries with economies in transition to maximise the benefits offered by the C2C exchange platform, to increase their electronic exchange of Customs information with neighbouring countries as well as to adopt international standards when it comes to electronic messages (the project will provide funding for twenty participants at each workshop).
- Activity 5 Delivering a second inter-regional Expert Group Meeting (one day) at the end of the project to present and evaluate the results achieved in the five pilot countries.
- Activity 6 Delivering a seminar (one day and back to back with the second inter-regional Expert Group Meeting) to promote the electronic exchange of Customs information and the adoption of standard electronic messages, with special focus on the specific requirement of developing countries and countries with economies in transition on the basis of the results achieved in the five pilot countries (the project will provide funding for 45 participants from developing countries and countries with economies in transition, in particular from countries other than the pilot countries).
UNECE Transport Division
Palais des Nations - CH-1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 (0) 22 917 2401 - Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 0039
Mr. André Sceia
ESCAP - United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
Mr. Fedor KORMILITSYN