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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     30 November  2011

Asean New Common Tariff Codes to be in implemented from 2012

SINGAPORE, Nov 30

The customs administrations of Asean member countries will implement a new set of tariff codes for the classification of all goods traded within and outside the region from next year.

The Asean Harmonised Tariff Nomenclature (AHTN) 2012 is a common tariff classification system of Asean. The AHTN is also an initiative by Asean member countries to provide a transparent and uniform goods classification system to facilitate trade in Asean.

It is based on the latest version of the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) developed by the World Customs Organisation (WCO).

Singapore Customs chaired the Asean Task Force to develop the AHTN 2012.

Singapore Customs, Head of Tariffs and Trade Services, David Foo said the review of the AHTN began as early as 2009, when the WCO adopted the latest amendments to the HS.

Between 2009 and 2011, Asean Customs officials held eight joint meetings to discuss and work on the revision of the AHTN.

To incorporate the requirements of the Asean member states, the AHTN 2012 saw an increase in the number of tariff lines from 8,300 to 9,558.

Most increases came from products related to fishery, machinery and vehicles.

Foo said the AHTN is now more comprehensive with additional tariff lines included.

"This helps to provide more predictability and transparency when it comes to tariff code declarations for the trading of goods among Asean countries.

"We also reworded the description of some goods, to provide better clarity and interpretation," said Foo, who is also chair of the AHTN Task Force, in a statement released by Customs Singapore.

The AHTN 2012 was endorsed by the Asean Directors-General of Customs at their 20th annual meeting held in June this year in Myanmar.

According to the statement, the WCO HS is used by more than 200 Customs administrations to classify international trade.

It marks an important step towards the realisation of the Asean Economic Community by 2015.

The harmonised tariff nomenclature can be likened to a "trade dictionary" used by traders and Asean Customs administrations to classify traded goods.

All goods are identified by an unique eight-digit code, with the tariff rates tagged to them, by individual Asean member countries.

For instance in Singapore, mineral water, identified by the tariff code 22011000, is non-dutiable, while sparkling wine, identified by the tariff code 22041000, is dutiable.

With the adoption of a common tariff nomenclature in Asean, traders benefit from a unified and consistent way of classifying goods.

From the tariff classification codes, traders will also be able to determine whether the goods are eligible for preferential tariffs under the different free trade agreements (FTAs).

Shell, one of Singapore's largest multinational companies with significant international trading activities, currently maintains the tariff numbers of thousands of products, across all countries that it trades with.

"Shell is appreciative of the AHTN initiative introduced by the Singapore government.

"By promoting uniformity and simplification of the tariff nomenclature system across Asean countries, we have seen an increase in efficiency and productivity in the tariff number maintenance process for Shell," said Chan Suit Fong, Finance Director of Shell Eastern Petroleum (Pte) Ltd.

She said, the AHTN has enabled the tariff number maintained for one country to be mapped to the rest of the Asean countries.

"The enhanced transparency in the classification of oil and petrochemical products across Asean countries will help facilitate trade in the region," she added.

At the national and regional levels, the AHTN serves as the basis for negotiations on FTAs and customs treaties, as well as the collection of trade statistics.

It is also used by customs administrations to monitor the movement of goods, for purposes such as food security, public health, environmental protection and counter-terrorism.


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