Customs give green light

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report published on July 15, 2009, on state of trade in G7 countries, Euro-zone and in OECD nations in general gave a detail analysis to state of affairs and major conclusion is depressing: The "unprecedented" drop in trade among major economies continued in the first quarter of 2009.

During the quarter, exports from the G7 leading economies fell 13.6pc, while imports were down 10.5pc as compared to 2008. Compared with the previous quarter, the value of exports and imports of goods and services in OECD countries, measured in seasonally adjusted current-price US dollars, continued to drop significantly, albeit less dramatically. The seasonally adjusted figures fell by 13.4pc and 15.2pc respectively.

The figures suggest that the value declines are slowing and it can feed Europeans with optimism.

On condition of global financial crisis a number of calls are made to avoid protection measures and to decrease trade barriers as maximum to give impetus to rehabilitation of the global economy. Meanwhile, crisis revealed that not all sincere promises are taken firmly. Many governments, including WTO member-countries, apply a protectionism policy try to defend their producers and avoid social shakes in their countries and this tendency is becoming stronger. Crisis clearly demonstrates split and aspirations to solve own problems instead of declaring unification of efforts. On this background Azerbaijan and WTO hold talks over terms of entrance to this organization.

The WTO member-countries continue insisting on decrease of tariffs, liberalization of trade regime and marker service by Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan wants to enter the WTO on optimal terms for it. According to officials, in term of membership Baku will prefer quality, rather the term.

To ensure security the country needs the level of development of economy, which could ensure the balance in foreign trade. Besides the fossil fuel and oil products, with a special weight of 92 percent in the Azerbaijani export, we have so less to offer, particularly, to Europe. The European market is closed for Azerbaijan, first of all, due to irrelevance of products to European quality standards. Policy intended for developing oil-oil sector will cover not 3 or 5 years, but more likely 10 or 15 years of intensive activities. Membership at WTO will become expedient for Azerbaijan soon after imbalance in economy will progress, our goods and services will enter the European market, and risk of making Azerbaijan a crude source for Europe is minimized.

It will become possible if to put an end to monopolies in the domestic market, remove barriers - all visible and invisible - to develop entrepreneurship, to establish every facility for free rivalry and to make the process irreversible.

Part of the process is to improve the foreign trade activities in all stages, including transfer of commodity flows through border and their customs cleansing. At the beginning of July the World Economic Forum (WEF) published a report on countries' involvement in world trade in 2009.

Azerbaijan's position on the Global Enabling Trade Index in 2009 improved by 6 points and fixed at a position of 70.

Despite progress for the year, Azerbaijan's position dropped on one index - the administrative management on the borders - from 121 to 103. In accordance with conclusions of the report, we are more charged with lack of transparency and hyper bureaucratization of customs procedures, as well as additional payments, not specified in the law, or extortions. More desire to be original and object to existence of corruption in our border. For instance, while entering the territory of customs check up in Georgia clients receive an instruction with a warning about criminal responsibility for offering bribe to an official person.

The last data used in the report dates 2008. Beginning from 2009, the government has taken a range of measures (some of them were taken through assistance of international institutes), directed at improving customs system and decreasing trade barriers.

The Azerbaijani State Customs Committee operates in line with the 'single window' principles since Jan. 1 in 2009. The 'single window' system enables to implement all work, including registration of transport, customs control (sanitary-quarantine, phytosanitary, veterinary), payment of road tax, obtaining forms for permits, registration of traffic schedule at one stage when passing checkpoints. Shift to this principle will save the time of passing checkpoints from several hours to 20 minutes.

Thus far, it took two or three days depending on cargo. After the opening of a new administrative building of the Central Customs Department in Baku, having a unified domestic network with all customs check-up places of Azerbaijan, automated customs registration and control system has been put into exploitation. It enables the residents to register customs declaration in 20 or 30 minutes and in one place. Earlier process would take an hour or half an hour and resident was obliged to pass all departments. Reconstruction of five major automobile check-up places and their adjustment to international standards is underway. They will be commissioned by 2010. By the end of the year it is planned to improve and equip all customs control places in line with the international standards, Afterwards, all cargo will pass automated control. Furthermore, electronic risk management system has been applied to monitor situation and analyze risks related to contraband.

New Customs Code has been developed and passed to the consideration of the parliament under the project on improvement of customs service of UNDP and the European Union.

It targets increasing customs employees' responsibility and application of information technologies. The action plan of the State Customs Committee for 2009 also envisages further cooperation with international institutes to upgrade customs system, in particular, implementing a project jointly with the World Bank to improve the customs procedures, quality of personnel potential and "unified window" system. 

At present many countries with transition economy (Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan) are improving their customs procedures uninterruptedly in an effort to simplify them and ensure maximum transparency. Along with economic benefits, such measures are valuable for a factor which cannot be bought. This is the international reputation of a country.

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