Way is cleared for paper-free customs

25 Jun 2007

The European Council of Ministers has agreed to a new set of rules for exporting within the EU that will cut red tape and lead to a streamlined, paper-free customs environment.

The new laws, outlined in the Community Customs Code, means Irish exporters will no longer have to engage customs agents in the country they are exporting to. The code is expected to become law by early 2008. Some 64pc of Irish exports are to EU member states.

The decision was welcomed by Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheal Martin TD, who said it would bring immediate benefits for Irish exporters.

“This decision by the Council of Ministers is very significant for Irish companies which export to other EU markets and moves us closer to the day when firms will be able to conduct ‘paperless trade’ within the union.”

Also decided at the meeting of the Council of Ministers was the establishment a paper-free electronic environment for customs within the EU. EU member states are now required to develop compatible IT systems, provide for exchanges of information and enable EU-wide electronic risk analysis.

“As a government we are determined to reduce the burden of red tape for Irish firms both at national and EU level. The reduction of the cost of bureaucracy was one of the key recommendations of the Small Business Forum and it is important that it is acted upon,” said Martin.

“This is a move that will cut costs and will help safeguard Irish jobs,” he added.

The code paves the way for the introduction of ubiquitous electronic lodging of customs declarations and accompanying documents; the exchange of electronic information between the national customs bodies and other competent authorities; the concept of “centralised clearance”, under which authorised traders will be able to declare goods electronically and pay their customs duties at the place where they are established, irrespective of the member state through which the goods will be brought in or out of the EU customs territory or in which they will be consumed; and “single-window” portals through which businesses can provide information to all relevant authorities on their exported goods.

The agreement needs to be ratified by the European Parliament in a second reading which is expected to take place in the next few months.

By Niall Byrne