1. The WCO recommended me as a resource person to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to participate in the Exit Conference on publicizing TRS done by the Myanmar Customs Department (MCD).
2. The Republic of the Union of Myanmar has embarked on economic, political and governance reform programs since 2010. In line with this, the Myanmar Customs Department (MCD) recognized that streamlining and simplifying Customs clearance procedures are beneficial to the importers, exporters and to the Myanmar economy overall. The MCD recognized the need and benefit of WCO’s Guide to measure the time required for the release of goods. TRS has been established as a tool to measure the actual performance of Customs activities as they directly relate to trade facilitation.
3. In preparation for implementing TRS in Myanmar, the ADB with the assistance of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and WCO provided training to the Myanmar Customs officers and the stakeholders in November 2013 by holding a TRS Workshop in Yangon. Briefings had been given to all those responsible for collecting the data just before the actual implementation of TRS. A National Working Group (NWG) had been formed to undertake TRS in Myanmar.
4. The Myanmar Customs administration had decided that the subject of this study would be the
i. Asia World Port Terminal (AWPT)- AWPT imports and exports follow a sea mode procedure
ii. Yangon International Airport Customs Warehouse -follows an air mode procedure
iii. Muse border post (border between Myanmar and China) - follows the land mode procedure.
These three locations were chosen due to their strategic positions as they count for the most volume of trades.
5. The study was done from 20th March to 26th March 2014 at AWPT and from 21st to 27th March at the Airport Warehouse and the Muse border post. It was also decided that only import transactions would be the subject of the study. Motor vehicles for private use and special order imports were not included in the study. Special order imports include goods imported for Government projects, vaccines which require cold storage facility, etc.
6. Objective of the Study
i. To measure the average time that takes for goods to be cleared from their time of arrival into Myanmar until they are released by Customs.
ii.To measure the average time required for Customs clearance procedures, for intervention by relevant government agencies, and for actions by other stakeholders during the process.
iii. To determine where bottlenecks or obstacles exist in the processes and possible reasons for the delays.
iv. To identify opportunities for improvement and recommend possible remedies to increase Customs efficiency thereby enhancing trade facilitation
7 Time Release Study Exit Conference Yangon, Myanmar, 26th September 2014
The conference was held in Hotel Parkroyal, Yangon to publicize the results of the Time Release Study. The conference was inaugurated by the Mr. Htun Thein, Director General of Myanmar Customs Department. There were around 90 to 100 persons present for the conference. The participants included customs officers, representatives of Other Government Agencies (OGAs), members of various private sector associations like the Customs brokers, freight forwarders federation, etc. The print and electronic media was also present to cover the event.
8. The first presentation was made by me on “Trade Facilitation and TRS”. In the presentation a brief background of WCO and its role and activities in the International Customs arena was discussed. An overview of the ECP, the TFA and WCO’s Mercator programme was also presented.TRS in the context of the ECP and TFA and its concept, tools, objectives, and use of study results was discussed. The activities of WCO in Trade Facilitation in general and TRS specifically in Southeast Asia in 2013/14 were presented. The presentation was well received.
9. The second presentation on , “ADB’s support to Trade Facilitation and Time Release Study in Southeast Asia” was made by Mr. Shunichi Hinata, Regional Cooperation Specialist, Southeast Asia department, ADB. He spoke of the support of ADB in Trade Facilitation and of the “Asia Cargo Highway” (ACH). ACH is a trade initiative of ASEAN-Japan and its long-term goal is to create seamless flows of goods in Asia. An amount of $25 million for the period 2011-2015 has been committed by the Government of Japan for ACH. It was also informed that in the April 2011 meeting of the ASEAN-Japan Customs Directors General/Commissioners, conducting of TRS was identified as one of the priorities and was endorsed.
10. The third presentation on “Results of Time Release Study (TRS) Research” was made by Ms. Soe Soe Lwin, Deputy Director, MCD. She informed that based on the Master Plan on ASEAN connectivity, the ASEAN Customs DGs agreed on the ACH and in the April 2011 meeting of the ASEAN-Japan Customs DGs, the priorities for Customs that were agreed are:
- - RKC
- - Risk Management
- - AEO
- - National Single Window
- - TRS
ASEAN Member States agreed to conduct TRS with the aid of WCO TRS Guide between 2012 to 2015. With this background, MCD established the TRS Working Group and with the assistance from ADB, JICA and WCO planned the TRS. The objective and scope of the TRS were presented. The key results were tabulated as key performance indicators using the main markers, namely, arrival to lodgment; lodgment to release; release to removal and arrival to removal. In addition, details of Customs performance in terms of Customs processes were also measured.
11. The fourth and last presentation was made by Mr.Shuihei Ueno, Chief Advisor for MCD and JICA expert from Japan Customs. He presented Japan’s experience of TRS and spoke on its objectives, methodologies and the results of the 10th TRS conducted by Japan in 2012. The TRS over the years have enabled Japan Customs to carry out structural reforms, measure the progress of trade facilitation and the effectiveness of measures introduced for Trade Facilitation. Mr. Ueno also gave a brief overview of the Myanmar Automated Cargo Clearance System (MACCS) which is being developed with assistance of JICA for the MCD. MACCS would support online filing and processing of declarations as well as e-payment. It would involve linkages between cargo information and declaration information and the various players involved in import/export and trade logistics would use MACCS. It would also pave way for National Single Window. It is expected to become functional by 2016.
12. Recommendations made by MCD
As a mid-term initiative, it is recommended that MCD roll out the Myanmar Automated Customs Clearance system (MACCS) as soon as possible.
In the short term, the following proposals are recommended:
1. Introduction of risk management- At the Yangon airport warehouse and at Muse all goods (100%) were examined.
2. Pre-arrival lodgement of Customs declarations - Although this not provided for in Myanmar Customs law, it is in practice at the Muse/Ruili border post where Customs declarations are registered, checked, appraised and the duty paid before the arrival of the goods at the border so long as all the necessary documents are submitted to the Customs. This was recommended for the other locations also.
3. Taking the computer unit function outside the customs processes - When a Customs declaration is submitted, it is registered, checked and appraised manually and then sent to the computer unit for keying in the particulars relating to the goods description, tariff code, duty amount, etc. Once all the particulars are keyed, the declaration file is sent to the cashier’s section for payment of duty and onwards to examination and release At the AWPT, this process has taken a mean time of 13 hours and 51 minutes. At the Muse border post this process has taken 1day 11 hours and 9 minutes. As this is a statistical function this could be done after release and clearance of goods as is being done at Yangon Airport Warehouse.
4. Pre-arrival clearance - Customs declaration could be registered, checked, appraised and the duty paid and if there is no risk (green channel) and the release order could be issued before the goods arrive into the territory.
5. Introduction of audit based controls
6. Introduction of Authorized Economic Operator concept
13. Conclusion: The Exit conference was well organised and the MCD were very frank about the challenges faced. They informed that there were some gaps in the understanding of the TRS team about some of the processes at an operational level. The TRS team were not aware of the pre-arrival lodgement process followed at Muse. The TRS Working group found that although the stake holders were informed of the TRS, their staff was not aware of it. This created a little confusion on the first day of TRS. Similarly some Customs officers were also not aware of what to do with the survey forms as the core staff that was trained in data collection did not pass on this information to their colleagues thereby resulting in some data not filled in the survey forms. MCD is in the process of reform and modernization of the Customs and are in the process of carrying out legislative changes and automation. At the conference it was announced that the next TRS could be done in 2017 as by 2016 the automation of the customs (MACCS) would become operational. The MCD expressed their gratitude to WCO, ADB and JICA for the assistance in conducting the TRS and informed that many important lessons were learnt.