Jayvee Santos, Regional Coordinator - ASYCUDA

The Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus is a significant regional free trade agreement, and UNCTAD is privileged to be part of implementing the institutional strengthening and modernisation of the customs administrations of the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Tonga, and Tuvalu through the deployment of ASYCUDAWorld.

Well-functioning and modernised border and customs procedures are key factors to realise the benefits of PACER Plus, and any trade agreement. Customs plays a crucial role in supporting the economic competitiveness of the country through trade facilitation while maintaining its mandate of collecting revenue for the government and protecting the community and environment. The current pandemic further underscored customs key role, for example, in facilitating the importation of life-saving medical equipment and vaccines, as well as ensuring the movement of food items and other essential goods.

Regardless of size, customs administrations in the Pacific face the same challenges brought by global trade, without the commensurate increase in resources. Most customs administrations have sought to address these challenges by adopting integrated customs automated systems, such as ASYCUDA, to support their operations.

The UNCTAD ASYCUDA Programme would like to thank and acknowledge the governments of Australia and New Zealand for the support and trust in the solution that ASYCUDA brings. The implementation of ASYCUDAWorld has triggered the simplification and standardization of customs business processes and procedures in the six countries anticipating that these would contribute to increased yield of customs revenue and trade facilitation.

Finally, we would also like to thank and congratulate the national project team for stepping up and carrying the bulk of the in-country work. With borders closed and UNCTAD experts only able to provide remote support, the team has demonstrated their dedication and commitment to deliver and deploy ASYCUDA. We are your proud partners in this journey to customs modernisation and reform. Well done!

Forward by Australia and New Zealand

The economic impact of COVID-19 in the Pacific is unprecedented and continues to unfold. Australia and New Zealand are committed to supporting economic recovery and resilience in the Pacific through all available means. This includes maximising opportunities for boosting trade and investment through regional integration initiatives such as the regional trade and development agreement PACER Plus, and its trade related support.

Therefore, we are pleased to be funding partners for roll out of the integrated automated customs system ASYCUDA World, which will support six PACER Plus Pacific partner countries to access and leverage technology to help mitigate and recover from the impact of COVID-19. This will enable customs authorities, cross-border agencies and traders to electronically submit documents and exchange data as well as computerise procedures to support swift clearance of goods, hence reducing the need for face-to-face interaction in a COVID-19 operating environment.

PACER Plus provisions and related assistance encourages more cooperation between customs authorities, promotes efficient customs procedures and provides transparency and fairness to traders. ASYCUDA World deployment is a foundational part of the PACER Plus regional customs modernisation work program.

ASYCUDAWorld will reduce manual and cumbersome processes, thereby increasing the efficiency of customs cargo clearance, produce timely and accurate trade statistics, minimise the risk of fraud, maximise revenue collection, and ensure the smooth functioning of cross-border trade, especially for essential products.

Enhanced transparency and simplified procedures for businesses trading in the Pacific will help to lower transaction costs and contribute to competitiveness. Based on global evidence, basic trade facilitation measures such as harmonising and simplifying documents and automating processes and risk management can reduce overall trade costs by 10% - and considerably more for low and low-middle income economies.

Importantly ASYCUDAWorld provides a basis for countries to move towards a National Single Window which brings together all relevant agencies’ border procedures under the one online platform, as well as add other digitised features which can continue to make the cross-border movement of goods, services and people safe, traceable and efficient.

The PACER Plus Agreement commits Australia and New Zealand to support Pacific Island partner countries to become more active partners in and to benefit from regional and global trade. This ASYCUDAWorld project is an impactful contribution towards Australia’s commitment to spend 20 percent of Pacific Official Development Assistance, alongside New Zealand’s commitment of 20 percent of Total Official Development Assistance, on aid for trade in the Pacific.