The Best Practice Guidelines for APEC Customs Administrations were endorsed by the APEC Subcommittee on Customs Procedures (SCCP), according to a release issued by the APEC Secretariat and received here on Wednesday.
The guidelines were developed following the 2020 APEC Leaders’ Meeting during which APEC Leaders stressed on the significance of ensuring easy access to COVID-19 vaccines deemed vital to safeguarding public health and well-being.
"Customs is one of the critical players in the global supply chain process. As the key gatekeepers protecting our borders, we need to ensure that essential goods, such as vaccines, can flow through easily without any hold-ups," Rebecca Jonassen, chairing the sub-committee, stated.
"Member economies may encounter numerous challenges in the supply chain, including counterfeit and illegal movement of vaccines," according to Jonassen, who is also with the New Zealand Customs Service, the agency that put forth the initiative.
Hence, the sub-committee chair acknowledged that the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and related goods, such as test kits, syringes, and dry ice, across borders while supporting the rules-based trading system is a relevant and real-time challenge.
The guidelines encompass a set of operational and practical measures to ensure the region’s supply chains are equipped to facilitate the flow of COVID-19 vaccines and related goods.
Examples of best practice comprise establishing a 24-hour contact point to help with questions and responses to delays, ensuring that the vaccine supply chain is uninterrupted while in transit, and fast-tracking border clearance for hazardous substances.
"Member economies are coming together with an urgent need to defeat the pandemic," Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat Rebecca Sta Maria stated.
"These guidelines will complement the wider ongoing vaccine supply chain commitment and assist economies to consider all available measures to manage the complex and sensitive nature of the vaccine supply chain," she affirmed.
Wherever possible, the guidelines recommend that customs administrations in the region should simplify procedures, utilize online forms, and digitalize documents to ensure timely movement and clearance of the vaccines.
Another recommendation is to conduct regular border testing, including surface swab testing and testing of border officials involved in the clearance process, to ensure the safe transfer of vaccines and related goods and to protect officials and others involved in their distribution.
"By implementing these measures, APEC economies will benefit from simpler border processes and help COVID-19 vaccines to reach where they are needed more quickly and efficiently," Jonassen stated.
"The guidelines will also build supply chain resilience and connectivity, securing against any future supply chain disruptions," she affirmed.
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