Streamline customs checks for SMEs, says ICC

18 June 2020

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is calling on governments to help SMEs facing customs challenges and disruption caused by Covid-19.

It has produced a set of measures designed specifically to help SMEs, which it said had been particularly hit by border closures, trade restrictions, travel bans and other lockdown measures.

The ICC said despite the gradual re-opening of many economies, significant logistical challenges remained and are likely to become the “new normal” for businesses.

It said that SMEs were critical links in global value chains and measures should be taken to ensure delivery of essential goods and services and rebuilding of economies.

Measures included adopting a risk-based approach to customs clearance, moving quickly from paper to electronic documentation, extending operating hours for customs offices, and reducing unnecessary physical inspections.

ICC’s best practice suggestions also included allowing deferred payment of customs duties, clearly and quickly defining “essential services”, improving communication with stakeholders, and private sector consultation in the design and implementation of health, trade and customs measures.

ICC secretary general John Denton said border delays, increased transportation costs and opaque and constantly changing regulations had made international trade even harder for SMEs.

“Governments must adopt truly whole-of-government approaches to ensure that Covid-19 regulations do not have unintended consequences at the border which would exacerbate these difficulties,” he said. “ICC has proposed an international agenda for customs agencies based on observed best practices in order to save our SMEs, protect global value chains and safely keep trade flowing.”

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