On June 10, the International Chamber of Commerce published a paper entitled “Customs Measures to Save Our SMEs.” The paper addressed challenges faced by small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the context of COVID-19 and measures by which customs agencies could support them. While all companies have faced supply chain challenges as a result of the pandemic, SMEs have been particularly struck by these changing circumstances.
Some of the key difficulties mentioned in the paper included:
- Burdensome documentation and paperwork requirements for importing and exporting goods
- Dealing with the reduction of operating hours at customs offices and delays at border crossings
- Financial pressures causing difficulties in paying fiscal charges on imports and duty payments
- Lack of clarity on government definition and classification of essential goods and services
- Lack of coordination between different government agencies and industry stakeholders
- Restrictions on non-essential goods that cause confusion and delay in the transportation and logistics industry
The paper encouraged customs agencies to facilitate the clearance of goods through a risk-based approach, the implementation of electronic documentation rather than paper-based filing procedures, the reduction of unnecessary physical inspections, duty deferrals for SMEs, increased communication with the private sector, and the prioritization of Authorized Economic Operator programs and trade facilitation agreements. International and inter-agency cooperation can help to ensure the success, and in many cases, survival, of SMEs in a global health crisis.