A new computerised system for the movement of goods across six Asean countries connected by land was inaugurated yesterday and there are plans to expand it to include the remaining members of the regional grouping, as well as other forms of transport.
The Asean Customs Transit System (Acts), an online transit management system which was officially launched at a virtual event, aims to make the overland transport of goods more efficient and at a lower cost, without the need to make repeated customs declarations or change of vehicles at each border. Traders can now carry out a single transit journey across participating countries - Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - via a single truck, customs declaration and banker's guarantee.
Speaking at the launch event, Asean secretary-general Lim Jock Hoi said the system - which has been operational since Nov 2 - will enhance Asean's trade and production networks, as well as establish a more unified market for its firms and consumers.
He said that having the system could also support the response to Covid-19 by accelerating the movement of medical supplies, vaccines and personal protective equipment within member states. "Under the simplified regime and customs cooperation of the Acts, the movement of emergency healthcare goods and supplies can be facilitated across national borders without the need for customs guarantees during this difficult period."
Myanmar is expected to join the system next year, added Mr Lim.
Feasibility studies are also being done for Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines to join in the future.
Acts was developed to help realise the Asean goals of reducing trade transaction costs by 10 per cent in three years from 2017, and doubling intra-Asean trade between 2017 and 2025.
Businesses can lodge e-transit declarations directly with Asean customs authorities, and track the movement of their goods from loading at departure to its final destination.
Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry director-general of trade Ng Bee Kim said the successful launch of Acts is a testament to Asean's commitment to strengthen supply chain connectivity in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. She stressed that it was crucial to undertake more outreach efforts to create more awareness of the system among private firms.
"As we gain experience and confidence, I hope and look forward to the expansion of Acts to bring even wider benefits to our traders in Asean," she said, raising the possibility of incorporating other modes of transport, such as sea and air, into the system.
The system is managed by a permanent team based in the Asean Secretariat in Jakarta. It has received support from the European Union in the form of technical expertise and €10 million (S$16 million) in funding for Acts since 2012.
Mr Paul Mandl, who is a team leader at the Asean Regional Integration Support from the European Union Plus programme, said that the pandemic called for a rethinking of the idea of global supply chains, with more emphasis now on regional ones.
"Acts can bring about part of the shift, I think, we will see in the longer term of regional supply chains, facilitating the movement of goods manufactured in Asean for other Asean markets."