Digital ATA carnet for a Belgian company is a world premiere!

This week marked an important milestone in the digitization of the ATA carnet, an international customs document that allows goods to be temporarily imported. This document, which until now was only available on paper, has now been given a fully-fledged digital counterpart. A company from Leuven was the first to use a digital ATA carnet at the Swiss customs in Zurich.

An ATA carnet allows its holder to temporarily import products into a country without paying import duties and taxes. For companies that participate in trade fairs or take material with them abroad, an ATA carnet is an important simplification: no hassle at customs, no payment of guarantees. ATA carnets are issued by the chambers of commerce, and they also guarantee that the goods will be exported back to Belgium. This guarantee is part of a larger set of agreements between the World Customs Organisation and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris. It is the latter who made the  ATA carnet digitization possible. Instead of having to travel with a set of documents that has to be stamped each time by the customs services of the importing and exporting countries, all information is now available via an app that customers can load on their smartphones.

Developing this app has been a work of several years and its deployment is currently in a pilot phase. Belgium is one of the five countries participating in this pilot phase. “For the Belgian Chambers of commerce, joining this ICC project was an obvious choice”, says Christophe Coulie of the Federation of Belgian Chambers of Commerce who coordinates the project in Belgium. “After all, we are fully committed to digitization for the sake of greater security and user-friendliness. With a digital carnet, you can follow the entire journey of a carnet in real time and anticipate possible problems.”

The Belgian Chambers of commerce issue more than 1,700 ATA carnets each year. The follow-up of these carnets is a time-consuming activity for both customs and chambers. And with the United Kingdom leaving the EU and becoming a third country, the number of ATA carnets will increase considerably: an online application that facilitates this follow-up is certainly not a luxury.

The European Single Market still has many shortcomings

A recent survey of their members by Chambers of commerce shows that 70% of companies believe that the European Single Market is not yet sufficiently integrated. This survey is part of a larger project conducted by all European chambers and coordinated by Eurochambres.

This Eurochambres report provides an overview of the obstacles faced by companies operating in the European single market. For Belgian companies, these obstacles are first and foremost the complexity of administrative procedures, followed by difficult access to information on the regulations in force and, finally, differences between national laws on products and services.

The companies that were polled also proposed a number of solutions to overcome these obstacles. While the drastic reduction of administrative formalities is the most common measure proposed, the provision of information on procedures and formalities in the different Member States on a common EU-wide portal follows directly. Another major simplification measure would be to make it possible to carry out as many procedures as possible online. In addition, the Commission and the Member States must work better together to implement and enforce European legislation.

The full Eurochambres report is available here
The Factsheet is available here

Eurochambres survey: EU Free trade agreements not sufficiently exploited

A survey among Belgian Chambers of Commerce shows that their members are positive about the free trade agreements concluded by the European Union. Belgian companies are also generally better informed about the existence of a free trade agreement than their counterparts in other European countries. The main advantages they see are the reduction of import duties and better access for service providers.

But there are also important points of attention. There are insufficient accompanying measures to involve our SMEs in international production chains and to train or retrain employees. Furthermore, the free trade agreements rules of origin are often quite complex and differ from one agreement to another, which means that companies do not know them well enough and therefore do not make use of the tariff preferences.

This survey was part of a larger survey by EUROCHAMBRES and by the Committee of the Regions. The full results, findings and recommendations of this study can be found here.