Global governance

ICC publishes customs measures to Save Our SMEs

  • 10 June 2020

ICC is calling upon governments to resolve customs challenges faced by small businesses by adopting concrete measures.

COVID-19 has severely disrupted supply chains around the world with businesses of all sizes still coming to grips with border closures, trade restrictions, travel bans, and necessary public lockdowns. Despite the gradual re-opening of many economies, formidable logistical challenges remain and are likely to become the “new normal” for businesses.

In response to these uncertain trade conditions created by COVID-19, ICC is calling upon governments and customs authorities to adopt concrete measures designed specifically to help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Relying upon the expertise of ICC’s extensive global network in over 100 countries, the latest ICC recommendations outline customs hurdles and challenges faced by SMEs in the wake of COVID-19, such as reduced hours of operations at customs offices, classification requirements for essential goods and the restriction of non-essential trade.

ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO said: “Small business has been particularly hard hit by the introduction of new and unexpected customs requirements in many countries. Delays at the border, increased transportation costs and opaque and constantly changing regulations from a whole raft of government agencies have made trading internationally 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. 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. We look forward to working with governments and customs agencies the world over to enable us to emerge from this pandemic.”

The ICC recommendations also outline best practices for governments and customs authorities to strike a balance between necessary health measures and trade facilitation. Most notably, ICC calls upon customs authorities to adopt risk-based approach to compliance management and encourages the adoption of electronic documentation in place of paper-based processes. Given SMEs form critical links in global value chains, policymakers must prioritise these measures to save SMEs, both to ensure the delivery of essential goods and services and to rebuild shattered economies.

Recognising the interconnectedness of global trade, the paper recommends the creation of an international agenda for customs agencies to assist SMEs as they continue to weather the consequences of COVID-19. From coordinating with neighbouring countries to sharing lessons with the World Customs Organization (WCO), the paper provides considerations aimed at strengthening multilateral processes related to customs policies.

The recommendations on customs measures are the latest resource in ICC’s urgent call to Save Our SMEs, a global, multistakeholder campaign to combat the economic repercussions of COVID-19.

Download ICC’s Customs Measures to Save Our SMEs now.

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