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.