Cambodia needs to expedite customs reforms to be ready to fully benefit from potential trade and investment inflows upon the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015, the Asia Development Bank said at the launch of a new report Wednesday.
To benefit from freer flows of goods, labor and capital, Cambodia needs to cut excessive red tape and eliminate trade bottlenecks, the report, The Asean Economic Community: A Work In Progress, says.
“India performs awfully on customs-related issues such as the cost of importing and exporting containers, and the time and documentation required for clearance…and Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic are even worse than India,” it says.
Cambodia has made improvements in logistics but still remains low in global efficiency rankings.
In the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index released last month, Cambodia ranked 83 out of 160 countries, an improvement on its 2012 ranking of 101.
Cambodia’s progress was made in “reforming and modernizing its import, export and transit operations, including by streamlining and harmonizing customs procedures to international standards,” the index states.
However, Jayant Menon, lead economist at the ADB’s regional economic integration office, said despite its improvements, Cambodia needs to catch up with neighboring countries in implementing a national single window for customs procedures. A single window would consolidate government departments and data to facilitate more expedient trade submissions.
“Cambodia needs to work hard in the customs area to catch up,” Mr. Menon said at the launch. “We need to work towards a coherent national single window with the aim of being part of the Asean single window border procedures. That’s a key challenge.”
Pan Sorasak, Commerce Ministry secretary of state, said although automated procedures at ports and borders have helped trade, better technology is needed at customs points. “We start from zero. We need to catch up with the world and we need to catch up with technology,” he said.
Independent economist Srey Chanthy lauded the government’s recent efforts to stringently collect tax at customs on imports, but said more remains to be done.
“Cambodia needs a more sophisticated customs system so [traders] can track the flow of goods and as import and export activities are sped up,” he said.
“Once this is in place everything will be standardized and harmonized, and Asean members can all use the same system.”