The customs administrations of all ten ASEAN member states came together on September 29 to sign a mutual recognition arrangement (MRA) for their authorised economic operator (AEO) programmes.

The ASEAN AEO MRA, referred to as AAMRA, aims to establish a consistent and transparent trading environment among the bloc members.

Kun Nhem, who heads the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE), joined other ASEAN customs officials in signing this MRA.

According to an ASEAN Secretariat press release, AAMRA ensures that the certification standards applied by customs administrations in their respective AEO programmes are in line with the principles and standards set by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) under the SAFE Framework, which is designed to enhance the security and efficiency of global trade.

“Certified AMS AEOs will enjoy faster cargo clearance and priority treatment for cargo inspection for their goods traded within ASEAN,” it said.

“These benefits are expected to increase savings arising from improved predictability of cargo movement,” it added.

The release pointed out that in alignment with the objectives of the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025 – which aims to create a closely interconnected and unified ASEAN economy – AAMRA has the potential to boost trade. This could be achieved by reducing regulatory complexities and streamlining the flow of goods within the bloc.

“The AAMRA demonstrates our members’ strong cooperation to enable the seamless movement of goods within ASEAN in order to enhance intra-ASEAN trade and promote economic development and growth,” said ASEAN secretary-general Kao Kim Hourn.

“It will play a vital role in strengthening supply chain connectivity as businesses would enjoy increased cost savings due to reduced administrative burdens and better predictability of cargo movement,” he added.

Upon completion of their domestic administrative procedures, six ASEAN member states – Brunei, Indonesia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore – are scheduled to commence a six-month pilot implementation of AAMRA by the end of 2023. Their goal is to achieve full implementation by the third quarter of 2024.

The remaining four ASEAN member states are expected to participate in a second pilot implementation in 2024.

As outlined in the arrangement, a collective assessment conducted by the participants has confirmed that their national AEO programmes serve as security and compliance initiatives, bolstering the security of the supply chain and enhancing trade facilitation.

It explained that these programmes incorporate security requirements in accordance with the respective domestic laws of the participants, as well as the internationally recognised security standards outlined in the WCO SAFE Framework.

The document recognises the specialised nature of border management processes, procedures, mechanisms, and the legislations adopted by the participants in administering their respective programmes.

“The participating parties will actively implement this arrangement with a view to strengthening supply chain security and enhancing the participating parties’ common interests in trade facilitation,” it said.

“The participating parties will each strive to provide members of the other participating parties’ programmes with further benefits in accordance with this arrangement, as well as engage in dialogues to discuss opportunities to allow trade resumption following disruption in emergency situations,” it added.