Thursday, June 17, 2021
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Customs At The Forefront Of Facilitating COVID-19 Vaccines And Essential Goods


Customs officials from APEC member economies joined
forces to support the region’s recovery effort by
developing a set of best practice guidelines to support the
roll out of COVID-19 vaccines in the APEC region.

The
Best
Practice Guidelines for APEC Customs Administrations

were endorsed by the APEC SubCommittee on Customs
Procedures (SCCP) ahead of the 2021 APEC Ministers
Responsible for Trade Meeting.

The guidelines were
developed following the 2020 APEC Leaders’ Meeting, where
the APEC Leaders highlighted the importance of ensuring easy
access to COVID-19 vaccines, which is vital to safeguard
people’s health and
well-being.

“Customs is one of the
critical players in the global supply chain process,” said
Rebecca Jonassen, who chairs the sub-committee.
“As the key gatekeepers protecting our borders, we need to
ensure that essential goods like the vaccines can flow
through easily without any hold
ups.”

“Member economies may encounter
numerous challenges in the supply chain, including
counterfeit and illegal movement of vaccines,” added
Jonassen, who is also with the New Zealand Customs Service,
the agency that proposed the initiative. “Therefore, the
rollout across borders of COVID-19 vaccines and related
goods, such as test kits, syringes and dry ice, while
supporting the rules-based trading system is a relevant and
real-time challenge.”

The guidelines are comprised
of a set of operational and practical measures to ensure the
region’s supply chains are equipped to facilitate the flow
of COVID-19 vaccines and related goods.

Examples of
best practice include establishing a 24-hour contact point
to help with questions and responses to delays, ensuring
that the vaccine supply chain is uninterrupted while in
transit and fast-tracking border clearance for hazardous
substances.

“Member economies are coming together
with an urgent need to defeat the pandemic,” said Dr
Rebecca Sta Maria, Executive Director of the APEC
Secretariat. “These guidelines will complement the wider
ongoing vaccine supply chain commitment and assist economies
to consider all available measures to manage the complex and
sensitive nature of the vaccine supply chain.”

Where
possible, the guidelines recommend that customs
administrations in the region should simplify procedures,
utilize online forms and digitalize documents to ensure
timely movement and clearance of the vaccines.

Another
recommendation is to carry out regular border testing,
including surface swab testing and testing of border
officials involved in the clearance process to ensure the
safe transfer of vaccines and related goods and to protect
officials and others involved in their
distribution.

“By implementing these measures, APEC
economies will benefit from simpler border processes and
help COVID-19 vaccines to reach where they are needed more
quickly and efficiently,” said Jonassen. “The guidelines
will also build supply chain resilience and connectivity,
securing against any future supply chain
disruptions.”

© Scoop Media

 



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