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Easier trade procedures to energize cooperation

Zhong Nan and Lu Hongyan
Updated: May 28,2015 9:04 AM     China Daily

Vice-Premier Wang Yang on May 27 called for closer cooperation between the customs authorities of countries along the new Silk Road to allow more efficient trading procedures and cross-border e-commerce activities.

The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives were put forward by President Xi Jinping in 2013, with the purpose of rejuvenating the two ancient trading routes and further opening up the markets.

“Even though the economic growth of many countries along the routes remains slow under current global economic conditions, they should continue to develop new business growth points and oppose trade protectionism,” Wang told a forum held on Wednesday in Xi’an for heads of customs administrations from countries likely to be involved.

To facilitate more trade, Wang said China will improve its ability to combat cross-border smuggling activities and continue to support international logistics, customs clearance, trans-shipment cargo and multi-model transportation, as well as establishing the most efficient supervision model possible for cross-border e-commerce activity.

The Silk Road Economic Belt is to be established along the ancient Silk Road trade route, stretching northwest from China’s coastal area through Central Asia, the Middle East and on to Europe.

The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road is designed to go from China’s coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and from China’s coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other.

Keen to cut customs clearance costs and improve efficiency, 10 customs departments from nine Chinese provinces and autonomous regions along the two trading routes have signed a cooperation agreement on integrating regional customs clearance procedures.

All export and import products that go through any customs within the areas, which include Zhengzhou in Henan province, Xi’an in Shaanxi province, and Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, are entitled to simplified procedures through a system that will require a single customs declaration.

Trade between China and countries along the Belt and Road routes was worth $1.12 trillion last year, accounting for 26 percent of China’s foreign trade.

Kunio Mikuriya, secretary-general of the World Customs Organization, told the forum the current global supply chain is under threat from illegal trade and terrorism, but that the development of the Belt and Road Initiative from a customs perspective can play a key role in preventing criminal activity such as drug smuggling via e-commerce, the import of hazardous waste, commercial fraud and intellectual property infringement.

Customs authorities have taken a number of measures to cooperate with nations such as Laos, Kazakhstan and Mongolia to improve supply chain security by launching joint actions to tackle smuggling of drugs, waste, endangered wild animals and weapons.

Yu Guangzhou, head of the General Administration of Customs of China, said the nation will work with other countries to accelerate the creation of a standardized system which might include trade procedures, goods classifications, and rules of origin.