At an International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) conference in Mexico, I was pleasantly surprised to be welcomed like a VIP (which I am not nor will I ever presume to be), with my name prominently displayed on a large LED board and officials ushering me to the forum proper where not even the resource persons were accorded such attention. It was fleeting but utterly suspicious. The session was on the ATA Carnet. It was only when the delegates from Europe, the Americas, China, Japan and Asean took turns to stress the need for Philippine accession to the Istanbul Convention did I heave a sigh of relief.
The ATA Carnet is an international customs document that allows the temporary import and export of goods, free of taxes and duties, for a determined period of time. This eliminates the need to purchase temporary bonds so long as the goods are re-exported when the allotted time frame, which does not exceed 12 months, expires.
Covered in the Carnet are commercial samples, professional equipment and goods used for exhibitions and fairs. The Istanbul Convention, on the other hand, combined all various conventions on the temporary admission of goods into a single document. This was adopted by 87 countries.
There are compelling reasons for the Philippines to accede to the Istanbul Convention. For one, the ATA Carnet system, which is integrated in said Convention, is an important instrument in promoting the Philippines as a business, exhibition and convention center.
Moreover, Philippine businesses can successfully develop their market capabilities by reaping the benefits of global trade facilitation where the country may be integrated into the expanding international business community. Also, the system boosts our exporters as joining exhibits and trade fairs becomes less costly and easier.
Philippine Customs likewise stands to benefit from the Carnet. The system is the Customs’ key to effective strategic networking with other Customs Authorities and International Trade and Promotion organizations. There will be less paperwork as the system does away with the need to complete national documents at each Customs clearance. Officials need not deal with individual traders nor liaise with individual users of temporary admission. The point of contact under the ATA Carnet will be the National Issuing and Guaranteeing Association (NIGA) usually represented by the Chamber of Commerce. The Carnet system assures payment of duties and taxes through the international security chain of NIGA, administered by the ICC and the World Chambers Federation.
The enthusiasm manifested by the parties to the ATA Carnet at the ICC convention shows the serious interest of international traders in the Philippines. More than a year ago, we joined the global community when the President signed the Trade Facilitation Agreement. I do not see any reason why we should delay any further our accession to the Istanbul Convention.
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