Customs House Weekly Series #18
Jamaica Customs: Improving Trade Facilitating, Promoting Compliance
As the second largest contributor to the national budget, the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) recognises the crucial role it plays in propelling the nation’s development, as the entity continues to facilitate trade, protect the country’s revenue and borders, while promoting compliance.
So, what are some of the strategic changes that have been made, which have served to assist the JCA to improve its operational efficiency for the benefit of all stakeholders?
The implementation of the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA World) has significantly enhanced the trade facilitation mandate of the JCA. Since full implementation in April 2016, the use of ASYCUDA World has resulted in 55 per cent of cargo being cleared within 24 hours of arrival, versus 22 per cent prior to implementation of the system. ASYCUDA World has revolutionised the interaction between the JCA and its clients, and the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for which the Agency conducts regulatory functions.
ASYCUDA has enhanced the JCA’s business and operating procedures to the benefit of staff, Customs Brokers, importers, and other stakeholders, as it allows for less bureaucracy, and more accountability and transparency.
LEGISLATIVE REFORM UNDERWAY
As a consultative partner the JCA is committed to creating an improved legislative framework which promotes business opportunities for Jamaica in the shipping industry as well as international trade.
The Government has indicated that the development of Jamaica as a global logistics hub and the establishment of special economic zones are key strategies for economic growth. The realisation of these strategies requires appropriate laws that support customs procedures that facilitate trade and promote predictability and efficiency.
Legislative reform is being undertaken on a phased basis, which included amendments to the Customs Bill (2014) and current revision of the Customs Bill (2015), through robust stakeholder consultations.
Phase one culminated in the passing of the Customs (Amendment) Act, 2014, the primary focus of which was to provide the legislative support for implementation of ASYCUDA. Phase two is underway and covers, among other things, the following areas:
- The introduction of modern terminology in accordance with international best practice
- Express provision for electronic communication
- The modernisation of the Act using easily understood legislative language and structure
- The introduction of the concept of voluntary compliance
- The introduction of risk-based compliance and selectivity in the Customs processing or treatment
- The introduction of advanced rulings
- Temporary imports
As it pertains to air travel, the JCA has implemented the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) which will boost the Agency’s efficiency for timely and less intrusive methods of processing passengers, while applying more effective means of advanced risk assessment.
Recently, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) also announced that IATA’s Cargo-XML messaging standard has been fully integrated into ASYCUDA World which will serve to standardise the electronic communication between airlines and Customs authorities which use the system. Also, as a result of Jamaica's ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, the JCA will further increase its focus on trade facilitation. Jamaica Customs, therefore, looks forward to seeing even further improvements in its processing capabilities of both cargo and passengers, as part of its trade facilitation strategy.
The JCA continues to be resolute in effectively executing its mandates, as it continues to keep Jamaica on a path of sustainable growth and development.