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26.01.2006 General News

CEPS observes day, launch WCO Standards

By GNA

Accra, Jan. 26, GNA - Government is to install state of the art security gadgets such as close circuit televisions (CCTV) or secret cameras at the nation's entry points to support Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) in tracking down illicit imports and exports. Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, announcing this on Thursday in Accra during the celebration of the worldwide annual International Customs Day said: "We cannot continue to be happy to have our ports labelled as transit points for drugs." He said, "as a result of the critical role customs services played in international trade, it was now imperative for Customs administrations to focus attention on security functions." Mr Baah-Wiredu said the public view of CEPS should be one of mutual trust and confidence and that in the face of global trade there was the need to erase any negative images that the public had about Customs officials.

The day coincided with the launching of the World Customs Organisation (WCO) Framework of Standards to be celebrated under the theme: "The WCO Framework of Standards: The Role of the Private Sector". Mr Baah-Wiredu said the endemic and pervasive nature of poverty in Ghana required that measures aimed at poverty alleviation should include measures to empower the private sector to become the engine of growth. He said both the WCO and the World Trade Organisation recognised the invaluable contribution of the private sector in spurring growth and reducing poverty.

The overall objective of the WCO Framework of Standards is to enhance the competencies of customs administration worldwide to cope with the challenges of globalisation and also contribute to the economic development process.

Mr Baah-Wiredu noted that, even though, global and regional agreements had brought down trade barriers, Africa's share of global trade was lower today than 25 years ago because many entrepreneurs faced numerous hurdles when exporting or importing goods, and most often gave up or never tried at all.

He observed that countries with efficient customs and trade practice exported more, bringing about faster growth and more jobs. The Minister said that having to file many documents created room for corruption, adding that the long delays and frequent demands for bribes made many traders to avoid customs altogether by smuggling.

The WCO, made up of 169 members, has adopted comprehensive standards aimed at boosting security, making international trade easier and fighting customs fraud and terrorism.

The WCO and its members, who control 99 per cent of international trade, were optimistic that the implementation of the framework would revolutionize the international tracking of goods.

More than 100 members including Ghana had pledged to implement the non-binding standards, considered by experts as a major breakthrough and a key step in the fight against terrorism and customs fraud. To boost security, the standards require shippers to supply Customs authorities in the destination country with details of cargoes, a full 24 hours before they are loaded at foreign ports.

The standards also include information-sharing, inspection of high cargo using non-intrusive equipment and risk management to ensure that cargoes are properly checked before shipping.

Private sector companies that would commit themselves to implement the standards would be certified by Customs and would get preferred customs handling of their cargo both at the exporting and destination countries.

The implementation of the framework would revolutionize security and lead to efficient movement of goods, streamline and standardize customs procedures around the world, making cross-border trade easier. It would also modernize Customs operations, as officers would have to use new technologies. Implementation of the standard is expected to lead to a safer, faster and more predictable trade environment.

Mr Kwadwo Afram Asiedu, Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, said for a developing country to successfully implement and develop the facilitation of national trade procedures, awareness must be raised of the need for cooperation within the public sector and between the public and private sector.

He said improvements in a country's trade procedures would lower the level of the unwanted non-tariff barriers and thus improve access to new markets.

Ghana, he said, should learn from best practices and benchmarks of trade facilitation experiences from other developing countries to improve trade.

Maj-Gen Richardson Baiden, CEPS Commissioner, said one major benefit of the implementation of the framework was sustainable development resulting from economic growth.

He said CEPS must, therefore, work assiduously to meet the standards as a requisite for achieving the development aspirations of Ghana.

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