Vietnam will have to make a lot of customs rule changes to harmonise with the rules to be set out in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement over which the country is in negotiations with 11 other member countries in the Asia-Pacific. Report by Saigon Times.

Au Anh Tuan, Deputy Head of the Management and Oversight Division of the General Department of Customs, told a business-customs meeting in Ho Chi Minh City last week that when the country signed up for the TPP agreement, a slew of customs regulations will be revised.

Take express delivery service for example. The customs clearance time will be reduced to a mere six hours as enterprises could file documentation with the customs prior to arrival of shipments. The value of tariff-free goods shipped between the TPP economies could be less than 200 USD, or 4 million VND, which is four times higher than the current permissible amount in Vietnam.

Tuan said he is worrying that the shortened period for customs clearance will put huge pressure on the customs authority.

Speaking at the meeting, which was attended by hundreds of foreign companies, an executive at express service provider UPS said it now takes two to five days to have goods cleared by the customs because goods owners have to move their shipments around the city for all sorts of inspections.

One noticeable thing about the TPP customs policy is the member countries can draw up a list of enterprises enjoying customs priority based on the criteria set out by the World Customs Organisation (WCO). The requirements for selection of those enterprises must be specific and transparent and the TPP members must recognise each other’s chosen enterprises.

For Vietnam, Tuan said, eligible enterprises must have strictly abided by Vietnamese customs regulations and generated huge export revenues. Some businesses have complained about the high-export-revenue requirement.

The number of enterprises with customs priority in Vietnam is less than 20 and the country is piloting this program, he said.

The Japan External Trade Organization (Jetro) said at the meeting that more than half the Japanese firms now active in Vietnam are small and medium, so they could not meet the requirements for being recognised as prioritised entities. Vietnam should adopt more appropriate criteria, he added.

The origin of goods rule which is being discussed at TPP negotiations requires enterprises to declare the origin of goods and hold responsible for what they say.

The current Vietnamese rule forces enterprises to submit the certificate of origin (C/O) issued by the exporting country when working with the customs.

The 12 countries involved in the proposed regional free trade agreement – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam – are still working on this matter with two approaches being weighed.

One of the approaches is the exporter (producer or trading firm) will confirm the origin of goods in their own invoices which will be sent to importers as proof for priority customs treatment. The other approach is to allow the importer to declare the origin of goods without having to show the certificate of origin issued by the exporter.

Vietnam’s view is that for export goods, both approaches should be applied but for import goods, the importer will submit the C/O issued by the exporter rather than the authority of the exporting country.

Tuan said either way will require Vietnamese customs officers to have profound knowledge of origin of goods and equip themselves with sufficient tools to inspect this.-VNA