ASEAN, EU launch Customs Transit System to boost trade

Three weeks after the conclusion of the negotiation on the massive Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its five dialogue partners, ASEAN and the European Union (EU) launched a new online Customs Transit System aimed to boost trade in the region. 

Called the ASEAN Customs Transit System (ACTS), the online management platform will reduce intra-ASEAN trading challenges and enable companies to benefit fully from the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the free movement of goods across the ASEAN region.

ACTS is simplifying the movement of goods across the region, making it more efficient and cost-effective.

The EU, which helped develop the system, said the private sector in ASEAN now has access to a powerful new online system, the ASEAN Customs Transit System (ACTS), which will reduce intra-ASEAN trading challenges and enable companies to benefit fully from the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the free movement of goods across the ASEAN region.

Three years ago, ASEAN Economic Ministers set the twin goals of reducing trade transaction costs by 10 percent by 2020 and doubling intra-ASEAN trade between 2017 and 2025. To attain this goal, the ASEAN Customs Transit System has been developed to allow businesses to lodge e-transit declarations directly with ASEAN Customs Authorities and to track the movement of their goods from loading at departure to delivery at the final destination.

“The implementation of the ASEAN Customs Transit System plays a vital role in facilitating seamless movement of goods in the region. I believe the system would be an excellent tool in enhancing ASEAN’s trade and production networks as well as establishing a more unified market for its firms and consumers,” ASEAN Secretary General Dato Lim Jock Hoi said. 

The ASEAN official explained that the ACTS could also support post-COVID recovery to accelerate the transit movement of medical supplies, vaccines, and Personal Protective Equipment within the Member States.

Under the ACTS, the private sector can make a single Customs transit declaration that covers the transport of goods across multiple ASEAN countries, without the need to make repeated Customs declarations or change vehicles at each border. 

Special arrangements allow reliable traders to load their goods at their own premises in the country of departure, and to deliver the goods to their own premises at the destination. Faster Customs clearance at borders helps accelerate transit movements, and reduce the time and expense of carrying out regional trade in goods, to the benefit of producers and consumers across the continental ASEAN region.

The system is managed by a permanent ACTS Central Management Team based in the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia, with support from the EU-funded ARISE Plus program. 

Koen Doens, Director General for International Cooperation and Development at the European Commission, said the ACTS is a “remarkable achievement” that is testament to the strong, dynamic and long-standing partnership between ASEAN and the EU.

“The ACTS will make the movement of goods by road quicker and easier across the borders of the participating ASEAN Member States, thereby reducing costs for businesses and citizens. The EU is proud to have joined ASEAN to make the ACTS a reality, providing European technical expertise and EUR 10 million since 2012, in addition to the EUR 5 million invested by our ASEAN partners,” he added.