Administrations from Caucasus and Central Asia discuss transit in Tbilisi, Georgia

02 May 2017

From 24 to 27 April 2017, the World Customs Organization (WCO) successfully held a regional Transit Workshop for Caucasus and Central Asia region in Tbilisi (Georgia), with the financial support of the Japanese Customs Co-operation Fund and the cooperation of Georgia Revenue Authority.

The four-day workshop focused on the discussion of the existing national and regional practices as well as new initiatives undertaken by the states for transit facilitation. The WCO Secretariat used this platform to inform the countries of the region about the WCO Transit Guidelines, a new WCO tool that was endorsed at the PTC session in April and will be officially launched at Global Transit Conference in July 2017. The Transit Guidelines are based on the international legal framework, such as WCO RKC, WTO TFA, and consist of 150 guiding principles for establishment of efficient and effective transit regime.

Transit facilitation is crucial for the region of Caucasus and Central Asia for both intra-regional trade and, on a larger-scale, trade between the West and the East. In this region, there is the highest concentration of the landlocked countries, which implies that to reach the sea port the goods must cross at least one foreign country. Thus, all Central Asian countries, including Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are landlocked. In Caucasus there is only Georgia that has the coastline of the Black sea, other two countries - Armenia and Azerbaijan are landlocked too. All those countries were invited to the workshop. Due to the trade structure of the region, Belarus, another landlocked country from European region, also joined this workshop. Apart from the landlocked countries, experts from transit countries important for this region, such as China, Georgia, Iran, Ukraine joined the discussion. Regional and international organizations involved in the matter of transit policy also took part in it: Eurasian Economic Commission (EAEU), German International Cooperation (GIZ), as well as International Road Union (IRU), Organization for Cooperation between Railways (OSJD) due to the fact that the overland transport (road and rail) is the most popular means of transport in this region.

At the field visit to the border-crossing-post between Georgia and Azerbaijan the participants had a chance to see the full spectrum of the customs formalities performed at the Georgian side that follows the Coordinated Border Management approach. Georgian Customs has the responsibility for all types of controls at the border: customs, phyto-sanitary, veterinary, transport, etc. (except for the passport control for the passengers that is performed by the Border Control Agency). It was highlighted that the goods transited through the territory of Georgia do not require any financial security (customs guarantee), and all relevant risks related to transit goods are mitigated by the risk management system. A significant physical facilitative measure applied by Georgian customs is so called “drive-in” submission of the documents, which means that the driver does not leave the track and passes all documents through the window of the car to the counter of the Customs office.

At the workshop the participants exchanged their views on the current developments related to transit facilitation in the region. It was announced by IRU and the representative of China Customs that the TIR transit system in China will be operational by the end of the year 2017. Georgia and Ukraine communicated to the audience the progress in implementation of their obligations on accession to the Common Transit Convention that falls under general conditions of the Association Agreements with the EU. Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and the Eurasian Economic Commission conveyed about the transit regulation in the Eurasian Economic Union. The initiatives of other regional institutions, such as CAREC, TRASECA, One Belt-One Road were also discussed.

All participants appreciated the work of the Secretariat on the development of the Transit Guidelines as a necessary instrument for benchmarking their national and regional developments related to transit. They will send their national practices to be incorporated into the text of the WCO Transit Guidelines as Members’ Practices. The participants requested the WCO Secretariat to organize more capacity building activities on transit in the region.