Access to information about the legal framework and procedures in place is a critical element in establishing a transparent and predictable environment for international trade and for improving Customs compliance. Publication of relevant laws and regulations, as well as any changes to these, must be published in good time prior to entry into force. This information needs to be diffused by various means.
Where laws and regulations about import, export and transit of goods are not made readily available and easily accessible, people trying to complete Customs formalities will face difficulties in complying with these regulations. Also, if laws and regulations are changed without informing those directly affected by the changes, this provokes noncompliance for which the persons affected will be penalized.
The importance of publishing trade information is highlighted in many international agreements, such as the Revised Kyoto Convention and the GATT. Article X of the GATT specifically addresses this point and and the generic rules of Article X have been further elaborated in the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation.
Standard 9.1. of the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC) requires Customs administrations to make readily available all relevant information of general application (such as Customs laws and regulations, forms, and tariffs). Ideally, this information should be on the internet, as almost every administration of the ministry responsible for Customs has a public website. The WCO recommendation on use of the worldwide web provides a useful reference point for the type of information to be made available on the internet, including the use of a least one international language. It is of utmost importance that any such information is accurate and authentic. Increasingly, Customs administrations operate call centres, which act as central enquiry points for information.
Standard 9.2 of the RKC also requires Customs to make changes to laws and regulations readily available sufficiently in advance of the entry into force of the changes to enable interested persons to take account of them, unless advance notice is precluded. It is also recommended that Customs administrations consult with economic operators to receive feedback on the proposed changes and thereby help to reduct the impact on trade and business. Such consultations could become part of formal trade consultations.
Additional information (references, examples, etc.)
The ICC Customs Guidelines No. 28 on publication of information and No. 29 on trade consultation provide useful reference points in addition to the guidelines to Chapter 9 of the RKC. In addition, the ICC Customs Guidelines No. 31 describe in sufficient detail the benefits of creating an information centre.