A workshop on Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) programme was recently held by the Export Promotion Council for EOUs & SEZs (EPCES) in association with the Mumbai Customs and Development Commissioner – SEEPZ-SEZ at the Conference Hall, BFC Bldg, SEEPZ-SEZ.
Among the dignitaries present on the dais were Mr Baldev Singh, IAS, Development Commissioner, SEEPZ-SEZ, Mr Jagreet Sain Negi, Commissioner of Customs, Mumbai, Customs Zone-I, Mr Ram Mohana Rao, Jt Commissioner of Customs, Nodal Officer for AEO programme, Mr Ravi Kumar, Asst Commissioner of Customs, Client Relations Manager, AEO Cell, Zone-I, Mumbai Customs, Dr Vinay Sharma, Officiating Chairman, EPCES and Ms Manjusha Bhave, Regional Chairpeson, EPCES, Western Region.
In his inaugural address, Dr Vinay Sharma inter-alia stated that the AEO programme was one of the significant trade facilitation/initiatives introduced by the Customs. He stressed the need for fully understanding various nuances of the scheme and programme and to avail the benefits therefrom.
Referring to a personal experience, Dr Sharma stated that many importers do not make use of the facilities available for clearance of the goods round-the clock in the port and advised them to make use of the facilities and also ensure the habit of truthful accounting and faithful performance and strict compliance to the relevant law and procedure. He also informed the participants that if any member wanted to seek any clarification he can ask for the assistance from the AEO section of Mumbai Customs and can also seek the assistance of the Regional Office of EPCES.
In his keynote address, Mr Baldev Singh said that he was happy to note the initiative taken by EPCES and Mumbai Customs for organising the workshop as many stakeholders are not clear in mind about the eligibility criteria and advantage of being AEO status holders.
He also hoped that the units engaged in import and export of goods come forward for enrolment in the AEO as the status would be a milestone for ease of doing business and also safeguard the supply chain process. He requested the participants to carefully listen to the lectures and presentations on the subject after which he invited Mr J.S. Negi to address the gathering and explain them about the procedure for enrolment and advantages of AEO programme envisaged by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs.
Welcoming the participants, Mr Negi stated that the AEO was launched by the then CBEC in accordance with “Safe Framework” developed by World Customs Organization and that the CBIC then introduced a revamped scheme which covered various players in the international supply chain such as importers, exporters, warehouse owners, Customs brokers, freight forwarders and carriers.
He explained that the major aim of the AEO programme was to provide business with internationally recognised quality concept and also indicate their commitment to security at the various stages of supply chain. He added that those entities who hold AEO status are treated as “Secure Trader” and also as a reliable trading partner.
Mr Negi further explained that the organisations not engaged in Customs-related work like insurance companies, consultants, general banks do not qualify for being approved as AEO. On a query from the participants, the Commissioner clarified that an AEO status to a particular entity will not cover the group companies and each entity has to apply for separate AEO identity.
Regarding the benefits of the AEO programme, Mr Negi explained that AEO was not an incentive scheme but a trade facilitation programme by which the importers shall enjoy the benefit like reduced examination and inspection requirement for the goods and acceptance of pre-arrival import declarations, etc.
Similarly, exporters are also eligible for reduced percentage of examination of goods and acceptance of export declaration. The AEO system also provides for faster approvals for new warehouses, reduced audit norms and for the Custom House Agents/Custom Brokers, the AEO status provide for acceptance of pre-arrival import declarations for their client importers, he said.
Similarly, the logistics providers holding an AEO status can avail the facility of transit of goods without Customs escort. Briefly, the Commissioner also stated that the necessity of strict compliance as an important requirement. The AEO applicant should demonstrate adherence to Customs and other laws and also should base the programme on standard operating procedure. There should be an effective system to identity irregularity/errors and disclose the same to Customs and other concerned regulatory authorities. Later, Mr Negi requested the members present to understand more about the enrolment procedure, various advantages of AEO scheme from the detailed deliberations on the same being made by other senior officers from Customs who are also the Nodal officers for AEO implementation.
Mr Ram Mohana Rao, by way of illustrative explanations, clarified to the participants about the procedure for enrolment in the AEO and stated that there was no enrolment charges to be paid by the applicants for an AEO certification.
Mr Rao informed that India has entered into Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) with various countries such as the US, Britain, France, South Korea, Hong Kong and according to the agreements, Indian exporters with AEO status can have speedy clearance of their exported/imported goods, by the Customs of those countries.
He also discussed about the concept of trusted persons in an AEO programme as contained in the WTO trade facilitation agreement. He further elaborated the role of Customs in the supply chain security and also advantages of Customs – business partnership and in accordance with the CBIC’s resolve to facilitate “ease of doing business”, the Board has launched the present revamped AEO programme from 2016.
He also enlightened all about the four categories of AEO programme certification, namely, AEO – T-1, AEO – T-2, AEO – T-3, and AEO – LO which are approval based on the verification system.
Thereafter, Mr Ravi Kumar gave an exhaustive power point presentation on AEO and explained about the procedure for enrolment as AEO, verification system for approval of AEO, documentation, objectives, and advantages of the AEO scheme.
He also interacted with the participants on many issues raised by them on maintenance of records, compliance of the law, security concerns, prevention of illegal entry of prohibited goods, renewal formalities, etc. relating to the implementation of the progamme. He then requested the units to come forward for obtaining AEO status and offered all assistance to the applicants by the AEO Cell of Mumbai Customs and said that he would be happy to impart required assistance to the prospective applicants. He also requested the participants to go through the brochure distributed among them which contain the relevant Customs Notifications, Clarifications, etc.
Ms Manjusha Bhave expressed her happiness about the quality of discussions during the workshop and thanked the Commissioner of Customs and other senior officers and also the Development Commissioner, Mr Baldev Singh, for providing excellent opportunity to the units’ representatives to understand the scheme. She also thanked the participants for taking active interest and participating in the event, said a release.