Customs call for cooperation


PAPUA New Guinea Customs has improved its systems and processes in line with international best practices that resulted in more detections over the last couple of years than the preceding years.
However, given that PNG Customs implements an intelligence-driven risk-based targeting and profiling system, the possibility for illicit trade to infiltrate cannot be ruled out and will continue to be an ongoing challenge.
Stakeholders need to appreciate that it is practically impossible to inspect all the containers and cargoes as it will impede on and defeat international trade and business.
Therefore, in order to improve our efforts in the fight against illicit trade, especially the counterfeit products, manufacturers and businesses are urged to work closely with PNG Customs and record its Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) with it under its recordation scheme to enable PNG Customs to intervene at the border as required under Customs’ laws.
Without the recordation of IPRs with PNG Customs as required under Customs’ laws, PNG Customs is limited only to exercise its ex-officio powers to intervene on IPR infringements, which again is limited by financial resource considerations when the matter becomes contentious and litigious.
In order for PNG Customs to effectively intervene on IPR infringing goods at the border, I am strongly encouraging manufacturers and businesses to come forward and have their IPRs recorded with PNG Customs.
Upon intervention, we will refer it to the right holders to initiate legal proceedings and other appropriate measures against the infringers.
In saying this, I commend the businesses that have recorded their IPRs with PNG Customs, which had proven very successful with referral of IPR-infringing imports to them.
Similarly, I am renewing my call to manufacturers, businesses and the public at large to come forward and provide to us information on suspicious illicit trade.
This will greatly support PNG Customs, enhance its profiling and targeting, including its enforcement activities to increase its detection rate of illicit trade.
I also acknowledge the establishment of Illicit Trade Taskforce.
The PNG Customs is fully supportive and committed to see it operational.
However, Customs cannot support the work of this task force if it is funded by private sector, as this will be perceived as conflict of interest.
That was the sole reason why PNG Customs did not support the original proposal that sought to have private sector fund the operation of the task force.
It is important to note that PNG Customs’ business is more transparent.
We are open to anyone who intends or wishes to review our business practices.
As the main regulator of imports and exports plus the excise products in PNG, we are putting our best efforts to combat and contain illicit trade. An assessment of illicit trade by Black Economy Task Force, coordinated by the Australia department of treasury against the overall economic growth in PNG, has revealed that illicit trade is equivalent to less than one per cent of lost revenue.
PNG Customs exceeded the overall projected revenue budget target for 2018, which confirms operational efforts for this period have had an impact on illicit trade and illegal movement of goods across the PNG borders.
While we respect the observations of the Manufacturers’ Council on the issue of illicit trade, we believe it can assist and support our efforts in a more proactive and effective manner rather than preaching in the media.
Illicit trade is more like catching rodents in the legitimate business space, because these persons are only moonlighting and are not permanent in the market place because they are opportunists.
With the recently improved business processes and technological interventions, we are gradually closing the loopholes and we anticipate to effectively combat and contain illicit trade.
The other issues of grave concern are the standard of products and foods sanitation requirements.
They need to be seriously considered and addressed as a matter of urgency. PNG Customs cannot do it alone and calls upon the appropriate regulators to collaborate with it and other border enforcement agencies through a whole-of-Government effort and approach to address these issues.
Further, PNG Customs is working on the review of Customs’ legislation to increase penalties to deter illicit trade and expects to swiftly progress it to conclusion in the first quarter of this year for implementation.
While commending my hardworking and committed officers, there may be few officers with unethical and corrupt behaviour that compromises the efforts of all other officers and the systems and processes installed to combat illicit trade. Counter measures have been put in place to maintain officers’ integrity.
These include referral of officers to police for investigations if they are reported for corrupt activities and ongoing awareness and education on integrity.
Businesses and individuals must come forward and to report officers engaged in corrupt practices.
All manufacturers and businesses have again been reminded that PNG Customs is here to assist them grow their business and the domestic industry.
Accordingly, they are invited to openly discuss with PNG Customs any issues of concerns in a timely manner.
The fight against illicit trade is of course a global issue and requires a concerted approach and efforts.
PNG Customs cannot do it alone but with the support of the manufacturers, businesses and public at large.
Therefore, if you are not happy with some of the issues or the conduct of our business, I encourage you to consult us first before going out to the media to derail our efforts against illicit trade in the country because we always have an open-door policy on issues of interest to our business.
I am strongly encouraging the businesses and individuals who are crying foul over Customs’ business to report any illicit trade to PNG Customs rather than going to media.

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