New ASEAN Online Customs Transit System Seen to Boost Trade

Trucks driving around a container port.
The ASEAN Customs Transit System is expected to ease customs transit procedures among participating countries. Photo credit: ADB

Shipping goods across Southeast Asia by land is now easier thanks to the launch of an online customs transit system that allows businesses to make a single customs transit declaration for goods shipped across multiple countries in the region.

The ASEAN Customs Transit System (ACTS) is expected to ease customs transit procedures and boost trade as businesses do not need to make repeated customs declarations or change vehicles at every border in their route, according to a press statement from ASEAN.

ASEAN adopted the system as part of its bid to reduce transaction costs by 10% by 2020 and to double intra-ASEAN trade between 2017 and 2025. 

Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam are now part of the system. The system will soon be available in Myanmar, and may later be expanded to Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Under the system, businesses can track the movement of their goods from loading at departure to delivery at the final destination. 

With the system in place, businesses can expect reduced transport costs, which can mean cheaper goods for consumers.

Launched last month, the system is managed by a team based in the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia, with support from the European Union.

Seamless trade

“The implementation of the ASEAN Customs Transit System plays a vital role in facilitating seamless movement of goods in the region. I believe the system would be an excellent tool in enhancing ASEAN’s trade and production networks as well as establishing a more unified market for its firms and consumers,” said ASEAN Secretary-General Dato Lim Jock Hoi, in the statement. “The ACTS could also support post-COVID [coronavirus disease] recovery to accelerate the transit movement of medical supplies, vaccines, and personal protective equipment within the member states,” he added.

Business representatives also welcomed the system. “We are excited to have the ASEAN Customs Transit System in place,” said Yukki Nugrahawan, chairman of the ASEAN Federation of Forwarders Associations. “The freight forwarding community will be one of the main beneficiaries of this system as it offers simplified customs and transport control procedures between different ASEAN member states, and provides predictability on door-to-door delivery times and most importantly reduced transport costs. The ACTS will significantly accelerate transit movements across the region and help us reduce time and expenses of carrying out cross-border trade in ASEAN,” he added. 

Koen Doens, director general for international cooperation and development at the European Commission said, “The ACTS is a remarkable achievement that is testament to the strong, dynamic and long-standing partnership between ASEAN and the European Union.”