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Discussing What the RCEP Customs Procedures and Trade Facilitation Provisions Mean for Cambodian Business

14 July 2022

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Jakarta, 14 July 2022: The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is envisaged to be a mega trade agreement that establishes a modern, comprehensive, high-quality, and mutually beneficial economic partnership framework to facilitate the expansion of regional trade and contribute to global economic growth and development. On 14 July 2022, ERIA’s Capacity Building Programme co-hosted with the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE) its fifth Public–Private Dialogue in the 'Unpacking the RCEP Agreement' series, focusing on 'Customs Procedures and Trade Facilitation (CPTF) and What it Means for Cambodia'. This also marked the final of five Dialogues, on-going since November 2021.

Dr Sang Sinavith, Director, Department of International Customs Cooperation, GDCE, in his opening comments, reaffirmed GDCE’s commitment to deliver and facilitate the national single window initiative as an effort to deliver and facilitate more effective, efficient, and interconnected customs procedures to all stakeholders, including exporters, importers, and providers. He added that RCEP’s ratification in January 2022 will not only leverage better trade facilitation but also bring about positive perceptions of Cambodia’s investment ecosystem and job creation, with positive economic impacts. Jeremy Gross, the Director of Capacity Building of ERIA, affirmed ERIA’s continuous interest in trade facilitation issues as ERIA has developed an ASEAN-specific trade facilitation indicator called the ASEAN Seamless Trade Facilitation Indicators (ASTFI) - a survey of major trade-related government agencies in each ASEAN Member State focusing on issues including transparency and engagement with the private sector. He also thanked GDCE and the Australian Government for the utmost support to ERIA’s Capacity Building.

Following the opening remarks, the first session of the Dialogue was moderated by Sven Callebaut, an international trade expert for ERIA’s Capacity Building Programme. Mr Robin Flint, First Secretary, Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh, stated that RCEP’s Customs Procedures and Trade Facilitation, which is comprised of 21 articles, is designed to provide a ‘level playing field’ for all members to enforce the cross-border trade. He added that the implications for Cambodia will be to reduce the trading cost and build business confidence, resulting in an increase in Cambodia’s trade. Yet, the full benefit is predicted to take 5-10 years to be accomplished. Mrs OUK Chansopheap, Chief of Free Trade Office, Department of International Customs Cooperation, GDCE, shared how the CPTF chapter covers general principles and specific commitments that ensure predictability, consistency, and transparency in the application of customs laws and regulations of RCEP countries. She also explained the articles on CPTF that includes the baseline for implementation under this chapter, including the article on the release of goods, application of information technology, customs authority, and cooperation. Mr NOY Sophannareth, Deputy Chief of Office, IT Department explained the current implementation of the IT system in the Cambodian customs procedures including the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), E-customs, Cambodian National Single Window, and ASEAN Single Window, and Inter-Ministries Integration.

The second session focused on the discussion of opportunities and challenges for investment from the business perspective. Mr KOUCH Pheng, Executive Director, Triumph Link Logistics, Co-Chair of Customs-Private Partnership Mechanism Technical Working Group 3, shared information about the Government Private Sector Forum (GPSF), which serves as a forum between the Royal Government and the business communities to consolidate the needs of the private sector to foster a conducive business ecosystem in Cambodia. Mr PRAYAG Chitrakar, Country Manager, DHL Express Cambodia, noted there remain gaps in the distribution of information and customs procedures in the private sectors. He highlighted the importance of providing sufficient information in the country and to regional offices working on CPTF. Mr Sebastian Cortes Sanchez, Deputy Director, Asian Trade Centre, discussed the important role of MSMEs to be active participants, so the government can engage and build the skills of MSMEs to become competitive key players in RCEP.

HE SOK Siphana, Senior Advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia, summarised the discussions and delivered key takeaways covering how the ratification of RCEP shall allow stakeholders to leverage their participation in the cross-border trade including MSMEs. He underscored the importance of providing a better understanding of cost savings due to the preferential tariff. HE SOK Siphana closed by giving full appreciation to the efforts of the Royal Government of Cambodia in fostering the transformation of business and supporting stakeholders to be active players in the field.

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