The 4th Meeting of the Sub-Committee of ECO Customs Experts (SCOEs) was inaugurated by Mr. Mohammad Zahid, Member (Customs), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on 13th November, 2017. The Meeting was meant to discuss strengthening cooperation and explore new ways for further collaboration in Customs matters.
Mr. Kanan Nazarov, ECO Deputy Secretary General delivered his statement to the Meeting, highlighting the significance and need for Customs cooperation for economic integration of the ECO Region leading to enhancement of the intra-regional trade along with the challenges ahead. He hoped that the Member States' strong commitment for simplification, harmonization and updating of Customs procedures will promote integration of the ECO Region. He highlighted that this area has special significance in the ECO Vision-2025 which has been approved this year in the 22nd Meeting of the Council of Ministers (COM) and later by the 13th ECO Summit Meeting in Islamabad. He informed that the trade profile of the Region is far below than its potential. He informed the Meeting on the important ECO agreements. He made special mention of the agreements related to Customs. While concluding, he thanked the Federal Board of Revenue for organizing this meeting and expressed hope that productive discussions and deliberations during the meeting will be result-oriented and will further strengthen our cooperation leading towards prosperity through regional integration.
In his statement, Mr. Mohammad Zahid, Member (Customs), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), underscored the significance of cooperation in this area and considered it an effective means to increase the volume of inter-regional and intra-regional trade and more meaningful for the landlocked states. The respective Heads of Delegations attending the Meeting delivered statements and made presentations regarding developments in the field of Customs in their countries.
Mr. Manzoor Memon, Chief Collector, FBR of Pakistan was elected as Chairman of the 4th SCOEs. At the outset, the ECO Secretariat shared the progress on the decisions taken in the 7th Meeting of the CHCA and 3rd Meeting of SCOE held in 2016 at Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran. While reviewing of ECO Customs agreements, the ECO Secretariat informed that Six Member States have already signed the “Agreement on Establishment and Operation of ECO Smuggling and Customs Offences Data Bank” and three Member States have so far ratified it. It was further informed that upon ratification of fourth Member State, it will come into force.
The Republic of Azerbaijan announced that it has ratified this Agreement and the Instrument of the Ratification will be communicated via diplomatic channels. The Chairman congratulated the Member States upon this great achievement. The ECO Secretariat informed that as stipulated in the Agreement, 30 days after the date of receipt of this Instrument of the Ratification to the ECO Secretariat, it will enter into force. The Council urged the ECO Secretariat to announce the date of entry into force for the Agreement upon receipt of the Instrument.
The “ECO Agreement on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters” was examined in detail and the draft text of the proposed Agreement was finalized. It was decided that the approved draft text would be circulated amongst Member States for completion of internal governmental procedures for approval of the draft text.
Being part of the agenda, the MOU on Customs Cooperation between ECO and WCO also came under discussion. It was decided that a draft Plan of Action under the existing MoU would be prepared and shared with the WCO.
Presentations were made by the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, outlining the salient features of the proposed Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). It was agreed that the implementation of the proposed EDI mechanism will help in facilitating trade in the region. A Technical Committee on EDI was formed to further expedite the progress in this regard. The Islamic Republic of Iran announced to host the first meeting of this Committee.
The delegates briefed the Meeting regarding the legislation and various developments in their countries on implementation of their AEO Programmes. The representatives from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Turkey briefed the Meeting about progress on their respective AEO Schemes and MRAs with other countries.
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan made a presentation on “Facilities Provided by Pakistan to Expedite Cargo” and highlighted the Customs arrangement for the movement of perishable goods to the neighboring countries especially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. It was decided that the transit trade facility for perishable goods will be linked with the EDI System once it is in place.
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan briefed the Meeting about the training facilities and its experience in imparting training to Customs officials and expressed willingness to cooperate with the other Member States, if requested, in fields of Trade Facilitation and Enforcement.
The other delegations also provided updates on the issue and maintained that training courses for Customs officials of the ECO Member States can be very useful for strengthening cooperation among the Member States. The Sub-Committee recommended the Member States to finalize the Calendar of Trainings in their respective countries and share the details with the ECO Secretariat for circulation among Member States.
The Chairman of the Sub-Committee thanked the delegations for their active participation. The Meeting concluded with a vote of thanks to the host. A dinner was also hosted by H.E. Mr. Haroon Akhtar Khan, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Revenue and the Minister of State of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in honour of delegates where the distinguished delegates had the further opportunity to share their views and experiences on developments and challenges in this regard.