"Opportunities For The New Millennium"Associate Minister for Food, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control
Good morning delegates and welcome to the wonderful city of Christchurch.
Firstly let me thank you for the invitation to open your conference today.
It is a pleasure for me to address you, not only in my capacity as Associate Minister for Food, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control, but also as the local member of Parliament for Banks Peninsula.
Your theme "Opportunities for the New Millennium" is very appropriate given the unique position that New Zealand finds itself in being the first country to see in the new century -which is not that far away now.
In fact we only have 225 days to the new millennium.
There is significant international interest in how New Zealand plans to celebrate this event, and whilst the spotlight is on us, it is my view that we should take every opportunity to promote ourselves on the international stage.
Not only do we have the millennium to look forward to, we have APEC in September and America's Cup racing in December.
In this context, future initiatives that reduce barriers, promote and facilitate international trade and tourism are vitally important.
Equally important is having in place mechanisms that provide efficiencies and reduce compliance costs for businesses and individuals crossing borders.
I am aware that one of Government's recent initiatives that you have a close interest in is that involving the Review of Border Control services.
Last year the Prime Minister announced that as part of Government's strategic direction, a review of the existing border control machinery was both timely and desirable.
In broad terms the Government's intention was to determine whether it was possible that greater efficiencies could be achieved by those agencies operating at the border.
This has also included consideration as to whether the work of the existing agencies could be placed under the umbrella of a Single Border Agency.
The agencies to which I am referring to are the; New Zealand Customs Service; the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry; the New Zealand Immigration Service and the Aviation Security Service.
Government has commissioned a very experienced review team comprising Sir Ron Carter (who by the way is not a relative), Mr. Rick Christie and Dr. Peter O'Hara to conduct the review, and we expect them to report back to us with their findings by 1 December this year.
The terms of reference that the review team are to investigate and advise on include:
options for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of border control machinery;
desirability and viability of amalgamating functions carried out by Government agencies which operate at the border into a single border service agency; and
the relative costs and benefits and timeframe for implementation of recommendations by the review team agreed to by Ministers for further development.
I am aware that your organisation has made a comprehensive submission to the review team.
I have been advised that the review team has received a total of about 90 submissions which are presently being analysed.
In carrying out the review, the review team has visited Australia and Canada.
Their purpose is to study the respective border control mechanisms that these countries have in place, and the inter-relationships that exist between the agencies that operate at the border.
Once the analytical phase is complete, the review team will produce an interim report and discussion document which will be presented to Government by the end of July.
One of the consistent themes identified within the submissions is an emphasis on the importance of looking to the future.
I am sure that you will join me in looking forward to the review team's findings as we look to improve our border control machinery for the next century.
Whatever the outcome, there are likely to be implications for both Government agencies and the industry.
Graeme Ludlow, Chief Executive of the Customs Service, will be outlining some of the considerations for the future of border management, as Customs sees them, a little later on.
I'd like to turn now to one of this year's more important events - the hosting of APEC in New Zealand.
APEC has presented New Zealand importers and exporters with a unique opportunity to tackle some of the border bureaucracy that continues to hamper trade in our region.
While the World Trade Organisation continues to debate its role in trade facilitation and indeed who will take over as Director-General, here in the Asia Pacific basin, we are fortunate to have an organisation like APEC that is simply getting on with the job.
APEC works in three broad areas:
Advancing free and open trade and investment is number one.
APEC wants to make it easier for businesses to trade through improving rules and regulations, through the reduction of "red tape", and the improvement of economic and technical co-operation in the region.
Playing a key role in this programme is the NZ Customs Service through its participation in the work of the APEC Sub Committee on Customs Procedures.
As Brokers and Freight Forwarders you will be only too aware of the advantages for your clients in having simplified and harmonised customs procedures in place.
Procedures that are cost-effective, predictable and fair as goods are moved internationally.
Trade facilitation and modern customs procedures go hand in hand.
It is not possible to have one without the other and this is why the work of the APEC customs group is so important, not only for the conduct of trade in this region, but also in the wider world scene.
The group's programme is an ambitious one, covering twelve areas that are critical if there is to be smart customs practice in the future.
You will recognise the importance of these areas as I mention a few of them.
-For example Customs valuation based upon the World Trade Organisation Agreement is a central requirement, as is the adoption of the Kyoto Convention that governs customs procedural practice.
-In addition we need to be encouraging the provision of advance tariff rulings, good Customs public information, clear appeal rights and good management practice.
-The area of Risk Management technique also sits comfortably alongside good management practice for customs administrations.
Your clients who export goods to China, Korea and Chinese Taipei may have reported an easing of customs requirements in these economies.
Each has recently undertaken major customs reform which may be seen as occurring in the context of the APEC trade facilitation programme.
A word of caution though.
Not all customs administrations are able to modernise themselves at the same speed.
History and differences in traditions and cultures within the APEC region vary widely; in fact they are probably as diverse as can be found in any other regional grouping in the world.
Nevertheless, change is occurring.
The NZ Customs Service is playing its part in the provision of technical assistance to those developing economies who require help.
Our involvement is helping to create a more business-friendly environment in APEC.
An environment that does not wrap importing and exporting transactions up in stifling bureaucracy at the border, but delivers tangible benefits to the trading community.
In New Zealand's year as APEC Chair this year we are committed to keeping up the momentum and progress of previous years and the Custom's sub-committee continues to be an excellent demonstration of what can be achieved.
Finally a few words on the Trans Tasman Cargo Project being trialled by NZ Customs Service.
I have been concerned to learn of Broker reaction in some quarters to the concept of the Trans Tasman Cargo Project.
I understand that some Brokers are of the view that the project provides them with few benefits or savings, and for this reason Brokers generally have not entered into Partnership Agreements with the Customs Service.
This is disappointing because the purpose of this project is to encourage trade facilitation to the point where real cost savings can be made and passed on to consumers.
The Trans Tasman Cargo Project holds benefits for exporters, importers and consumers.
In time it's planned the project will, in fact, be a major catalyst that launches the clearance of customs goods into the new millennium.
It will utilise electronic commerce to the full.
The original design, agreed by Customs Ministers in 1996, calls for a single export - import declaration for goods traded between Australia and New Zealand.
It means the export entry in one country will become the import entry in the other.
That to me spells progress and I'm sure consumers on both sides of the Tasman would agree.
In the meantime, while work progresses on issues such as tariff harmonisation, three major New Zealand companies have taken part in a trial as a forerunner to the full export - import concept.
The three companies have participated in a trial which involves accounting for imported and exported goods periodically rather than at the time of each shipment.
This process has facilitated the movement of goods and has reduced compliance costs for these businesses.
I am pleased to record that here in Christchurch, Tait Industries has participated in this trial.
For Taits the trial has proved to be successful, although greater benefits would follow if the company's South East Asian and North American business was included.
This is one outcome of the audits made of the three companies involved in the trial.
You will quite naturally be wondering if this trial will be extended to further companies.
Before this occurs, there are some issues that have arisen requiring resolution with the Australian Customs Service.
These are presently being addressed.
CER Trade Ministers recently placed Trans Tasman Import - Export procedures on their agenda. v This will likely result in the original cargo project being advanced within a timetable that will overcome the need to progress Trans Tasman cargo facilitation by way of periodic entries.
At the time Ministers said, and I quote,
"We noted that while CER had abolished tariffs on trans-Tasman goods, there were still areas where compliance costs faced by businesses merited further examination. We noted that the Australian and New Zealand Customs Services' Trans Tasman Cargo Management Project was an example of a useful initiative looking at ways to reduce these compliance costs at the border and we would encourage its completion". Quite clearly compliance cost reduction at the border is an opportunity for the new millennium.
As I noted earlier, this challenge is on the WTO's agenda.
It is on the Trans Tasman agenda and it is on APEC's agenda.
I invite the members of the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders to grasp this opportunity with both hands and to work with these groups to this end.
I am aware that your organisation already has an excellent working relationship with the New Zealand Customs Service.
I strongly support that relationship and encourage it to continue in the development of initiatives that will provide future mutual benefits to each organisation as we enter the new millennium.
Thank you for your time this morning.
May I wish you all the best in your deliberations over the next two days as you take on the challenge of addressing those that present opportunities for the broker and freight forwarding industries.
I now declare your conference officially open.