During the just concluded UNCTAD 14 conference, Advantech represented by Maurice Njoroge had the opportunity to attend a breakfast side event on E-certification as a measure of trade facilitation where ASYCUDA and ASYCER product solutions were featured extensively as tools that have been essential in facilitating a lot of cross border trade.
ASYCUDA stands for Automated System for Customs Data. It is a computerized customs management system which covers most foreign trade procedures. ASYCUDA handles manifests and custom declarations, accounting procedures, transit and suspense procedures. Further it generates information that can be used for statistical economic analysis.
ASYCUDA programme began in 1981 when UNCTAD received a request from Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) to assist in the compilation of foreign trade statistics in their member states. UNCTAD carried out an initial evaluation and determined there was need to involve Customs clearance offices and the modernization of Customs clearance procedures to achieve quality results.
UNCTAD took advantage of the advances in computer technology back then to propose the development of a system that would be modular, adaptable and configurable for use in challenging environments with minimum staffing requirements. The proposal came under sharp criticism from states that used mainframe systems however UNCTAD still succeeded in developing the system which was then named ASYCUDA.
ASYCUDA to date has been implemented in over 100 countries globally and is compliant to all the defacto international standards such as IPPC, FAO, and ISPM 12 etc.
ASYCER is a new product of the ASYCUDA program family and is a UNCTAD solution for Electronic Phytosanitary Certification in the Import and Export of agricultural produce. Electronic phytosanitary certificate is a document issued by NPPO to attest that plants, plant products or other regulated articles meet the phytosanitary requirements of the importing country. This should also be in conformity with the certifying statement.
The Electronic Phytosanitary Certificate is the equivalent electronic form of the data and wording of the physical paper certificate which is then transmitted by authenticated and secure electronic means from the NPPO of the exporting country to the NPPO of the importing country.
According to Nicolae POPA the project manager of the ASYCUDA programme at UNCTAD, the main benefits of the ASYCER Electronic Phytosanitary Certification are:
- Reuse of information- there is a huge reduction of the data entry by a trader and validation functions of the NPPO are more accurate i.e. less errors and administrative burdens.
- Reduction of potential for fraudulent documentation- better quality paper (if printed)
- Timely and secure exchange of information between authorities at international level
- Improvement of security in transmission of certificate documentation
- Uniform applications of laws and regulations
- Enhanced competitiveness
Some additional benefits that can be attributed to the implementation of the system were outlined as:
- Implementation of international standards and best practices- alignment of national procedures and documents with international standards (IPPC- International Standard Phytosanitary Measures)
- Automation of Third world countries Phytosanitary requirements and restrictions.
ASYCER has the following contextual points of view:
- WTO TFA context- this highlights streamlined and transparent procedures, expedient goods release, border agencies cooperation, perishable goods, disciplines on fees and charges etc.
- WTO SPS context- features transparency , non-discriminatory decision making, assisting developing countries in implementing SPS agreement
- Single window context- features electronic supporting documents, border controlling agencies interaction, B2G, G2G data exchange
- ICT context – features accessibility of internet to traders/SME, development of ICT infrastructure, automation of ministries of agriculture/PPS
- Development context- features agricultural market access for commodity-dependent developing countries, support to entrepreneurs/SME, strengthening of trade infrastructure, new investment opportunities.
APPLICATION OF THE PHYTOSANITARY EXPORT CERTIFICATE
ASYCER as a phytosanitary export certification has the following functional provisions:
- Electronic creation and submission
- Facility to store as a template
- Electronic payment
- Automatic display of export conditions and restrictions for regulated products
- Prohibitions applied automatically
- Paperless procedure
- Tracking and tracing of electronic notifications
NPPO EVALUATION AND DECISION
National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO) of exporting/importing country makes use of ASYCER to perform the following actions:
- Management of actions and safeguards
- Handling results of evaluation of Application for export/import permit
- Notification of trader about acceptance/ rejection
In summary ASYCER Electronic Phytosanitary Certification system has the capability to fully integrate with Customs Declaration Processing system. This helps the NPPO to map out a particular produce by its botanical name which is accepted world over. This integration comes with embedded merits of automatic verification and acceptance of permits/certificates, quota and/or authorized quantity management, management of phytosanitary prohibitions and restrictions and automatic notifications linking inter agency business processes.
Ultimately the advantages of this system that matters to customs agencies are risk management particularly better target imports subjected to increased levels of controls, quality inspections and planned import/export controls based on risk analysis. For the traders their biggest gain would be a faster clearance process.
ASYCER is a relatively new and upcoming solution that was developed and funded by the Netherlands in partnership with UNCTAD. It has been successfully piloted in Ethiopia and currently operational in Uganda and Kazakhstan. The solution was developed to provide two main services i.e. B2G- submission, processing and issuance of e-Phytosanitary certificate application at the national level and G2G- for transfer of e-Phytosanitary certificate data across borders from the exporting to the importing country. To influence the uptake and implementation of the solution, UNCTAD provides a framework for technical assistance in prototyping and testing of ASYCER national system as well as training of NPPO staff in the operation of the system and post implementation support.