Speech to Open the APEC SCCP MeetingTreasurer
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, delegates to the second session of the APEC Sub Committee on Customs Procedures in 1999.
Or as we say in our native Maori tongue, Tena koutou katoa, which means greetings to you all.
It is with genuine pleasure this morning that I welcome you to Rotorua. I was delighted to hear your meeting would be held in this city. Rotorua is a jewel in New Zealand's cultural crown. More than half New Zealand's international visitors come here. Visitors are drawn to the many sights and experiences, especially those related to Maori culture and the world famous local thermal activity.
I hope, despite your busy agenda, you have an opportunity to visit some of the local attractions.
It was only six months ago that I welcomed you to Wellington at the time of your first meeting. Then, I reflected that APEC works in three broad areas and noted that the Customs Sub Committee works in each of these broad areas - free and open trade, facilitating the conduct of business, and technical assistance.
To do this you have embarked on an ambitious twelve point action plan which I'm very pleased to note has continued to progress during the six months that you have been away from New Zealand.
A number of your economies will have received technical assistance in this period and benefited from that experience in modernising your customs administrations.
Customs Valuation and Advance Classification Rulings are two areas where assistance has been forthcoming.
During the same time important issues to customs such as the emergence of Electronic Commerce have received attention.
A meeting of the APEC Electronic Commerce Group took place in Auckland just recently. It was held at the time of the APEC Trade Minister's Meeting and advanced a number of considerations which will have a spin off for customs.
The Trade Ministers went further at that time and exhorted customs to do more to facilitate trade in their economies by using modern methods and harmonising procedures.
Since your last meeting the WTO trade committees have met on this very subject, as was foreshadowed when I addressed your first meeting in Wellington.
Customs really is in the world spotlight in the sense of either obstructing or facilitating trade across borders.
Customs needs to be ever vigilant in this emerging era where others will seek to take over if customs is perceived not to proactively seek to facilitate goods.
This is where your sub committee and its efforts, along with those of the World Customs Organisation, can have a real impact in the future. The electronic age and the demands of handling an increasing flow of goods in international trade is forcing the redrawing of boundaries for customs.
Facilitation does not stop with goods.
Trade Ministers also urged all APEC economies to join the APEC Business Travel Card Scheme.
It is a credit to you that this scheme devised by the sub committee has developed into having the potential for full acceptance and use in the Asia-Pacific basin.
The Trade Ministers also agreed that APEC needed to work better at communicating the value of its work to business and to receive feedback from business on their priorities.
This year for the first time your "SCCP Blueprint" is available for distribution as you meet.
New Zealand intends to use this excellent publication to better acquaint business with the work of the SCCP and I would urge you all to do the same when you return home.
Your agenda is once again poised to generate some interesting discussion.
I'm pleased to see that "Integrity" has reached the stage where it could become an action plan of the sub committee.
I would commend this subject to your earnest consideration for it strikes at the very heart of the regard the business world has for customs.
I mentioned the Tariff Data Base in my opening remarks at your first meeting.
On this occasion I can express my pleasure that FedEx has agreed to act as sponsor for the data base for another term.
The challenge to administrations is to keep the data base up to date at all times.
New Zealand has enjoyed its APEC year and has strived to carry the APEC ideal forward.
New Zealand Customs has likewise enjoyed its year in the Chair and to be a part of the drive to bring about modern customs practice in the region.
I wish you well in your deliberations over the next two and a half days. Rotorua welcomes you, I hope you find time to take up my invitation to enjoy some of its delights.
It is with pleasure that I declare the second meeting of the APEC Sub Committee for Customs Procedures for 1999 open.
Again, I welcome you to New Zealand.
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.