Starting yesterday, companies such as DIP Investments, which produces and exports surgical masks, will benefit from a scheme that aims to facilitate trade in Asean.
They will not have to apply to the authorities for a hard-copy certificate that verifies the origin of their goods.
Instead, as part of the new Asean-wide Self-Certification (AWSC) regime, certified exporters can self-certify the origin of their goods and enjoy preferential treatment under the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement.
DIP Investments managing director Jaslyn Kaur told The Straits Times that the regime will allow her to save between three and four days for each shipment - the length of time it takes to apply for a certificate of origin for each market. Her firm produces surgical masks under the Mohar Medical brand.
"The time saved would help us to bring our goods to market faster, which boosts our competitiveness and helps to streamline our transportation processes," Ms Kaur said.
Asean economic ministers, at their annual meeting in 2018, agreed to allow certified exporters to self-certify the origin of their goods as part of efforts to improve convenience for businesses and help them save costs.
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said that year that Singapore-based exporters could potentially enjoy annual savings of about half a million dollars by not having to apply for a hard-copy certificate of origin.
Mr Luke Goh, deputy secretary for trade at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, said in a statement last Friday that the AWSC "reflects Asean's determination to simplify Customs procedures and strengthen supply chain connectivity amidst disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic".
"It will also bring about practical benefits to our businesses during this challenging time," he added.
To qualify for the scheme, exporters need to apply to Singapore Customs to be a certified exporter.
Eligibility criteria include having a sound bookkeeping and record-keeping system, having no record of any Rules of Origin fraud and showing "a substantial amount of experience in export procedures", according to the Singapore Customs website.
Ms Kaur said that her firm is finalising a location for a second regional plant to produce surgical masks, and that "the exact dollar amount of savings would only be known to us once we have started to transport shipments from the new plant regionally".
Department head at Chinatown Food Corporation Emily Kwek said that she will need less time to get export documents in order under the AWSC.
Regional chief executive of South-east Asia at PSA International Ong Kim Pong said: "The scheme gives greater convenience to beneficiary cargo owners, saves time and costs, and ensures a seamless port clearance process."
Singapore Business Federation chief executive Ho Meng Kit said that the AWSC pushes for regional integration, which will help businesses save on tariffs. The scheme improves "market access in a more predictable trading environment while retaining rules-based multilateralism", he added.
"The scheme will also improve business efficiency and provide added convenience for businesses, as it further streamlines the existing exporting processes within Asean," Mr Ho said.