National Workshop on the Harmonized System in Tonga

22 October 2014

A National Workshop on the Harmonized System (HS), organized jointly by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the Ministry of Revenue and Customs of Tonga, with the support of Euroscustoms, was held at the Ministry of Revenue and Customs in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, from 6 to 10 October 2014.  Customs Officers from the Tonga Customs Service and Customs Brokers in Tonga participated in the five days workshop.

The opening of the workshop was officiated by the Honourable Minister for Revenue and Customs, Mr. Siosifa Tu’utafaiva.  In his opening address to the Customs officers and the private sector, the Honourable Minister highlighted to the importance of the correct tariff classification of goods and the ongoing reform and modernization of Tonga Customs towards compliance with the provisions of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.  The invitation by Tonga Customs to the private sector to participate in the workshop emphasized the importance that Customs places on working very closely with the economic operators with regard to the correct tariff classification of the goods. Capacity building in order to eliminate the lack of knowledge about the proper classification of goods was very important and he encouraged the participants to take advantage of this high level workshop to gain knowledge and share information and solutions in the spirit of partnership between Customs and economic operators.

Mrs. Lepaola B. Vaea, Acting CEO Revenue and Customs, welcomed the facilitators and the participants and thanked the WCO for making the Workshop possible.  She encouraged the private sector and Customs officers to use this opportunity not just as a learning event but also as one to network and continue to develop the spirit of partnership.

During the Workshop a wide range of HS-related matters was addressed and the participants were thoroughly informed about classification infrastructure and the fundamental principles of the General Rules and practicalities of HS classification to ensure correct and uniform application of the Nomenclature. 

The establishment of a national advance ruling programme was also among the issues of the Workshop.  The introduction of binding tariff classification is one of the topics included in the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).  Once the TFA enters into force, WTO members are obliged to implement programmes for tariff classification and origin of the goods.

Since February 2014, the Customs Tariff of Tonga is based on the HS 2012 Edition. 

Tonga, a member of WCO since 1 July 2005, is not yet a HS Contracting Party and has been asked to accede to the HS Convention. 

In his closing address, Mr. Kelemete Vahe, Deputy Commissione of Revenue and Customs-for Tonga Customs, again emphasized on the importance of the partnership between Customs and the private sector.