LCQ7: Development of Trade Single Window in Hong Kong
Following is a question by the Hon Jimmy Ng and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council today (February 28):
To maintain Hong Kong's competitiveness as a trading and logistics hub and to align with the international trend, the Government announced in the 2016-2017 Budget that a Trade Single Window (TSW) would be set up as a one-stop electronic platform for the trading community to submit to the Government trade documents required for all trade declaration and customs clearance purposes. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as it has been reported that TSW has been piloted in 31 provinces/regions/municipalities on the Mainland and the Mainland authorities will establish a nationwide TSW in 2020 to facilitate connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative, but the full and mandatory implementation of TSW in Hong Kong will not take place until 2024, of the measures the authorities will put in place so that Hong Kong will not miss the business opportunities and will not have its competitiveness hampered due to the delay in developing TSW;
(2) whether it has estimated the amount of annual savings in administrative costs for the relevant sectors such as logistics, retail and import and export upon the full and mandatory implementation of TSW;
(3) whether it will formulate guidelines specific to the small and medium enterprises in different sectors and provide them with training and technical support, so as to assist them in adjusting their related procedures and systems to dovetail with the implementation of TSW; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(4) given that TSW will operate round the clock, of the authorities' measures to prevent a backlog of trade documents submitted by traders to the authorities over long holidays; and
(5) given that at present, traders may submit Import and Export Declarations and other relevant documents within 14 days after the shipment of goods into or out of Hong Kong, and this long-standing practice allows flexibility in the event of urgent orders and a short delivery period, whether such practice will be retained upon the implementation of TSW; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Our reply to the question raised by the Hon Jimmy Ng is as follows:
(1) Hong Kong has always been a free port that exercises minimal licensing control on goods entering or leaving the territory. Over the years, the Government has introduced many initiatives to ease the burden of trade control over the trading community and to speed up customs clearance. At present, many schemes are in place to help the trade meet the relevant trade document requirements by electronic means. One of these schemes is the Government Electronic Trading Services introduced in 1997 for the trading community to submit commonly used trade documents (including Import and Export Declarations (TDEC)) electronically to the Government through service providers. Hence, while Hong Kong has yet to implement the Trade Single Window (TSW), we remain very competitive in respect of trade facilitation and customs efficiency. According to the Global Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum in September 2017, Hong Kong was ranked the world's sixth-most competitive economy, and was ranked third worldwide for the indicator of "burden of customs procedures" (the higher the ranking, the lower the burden).
To further facilitate trade in goods and closely follow international development, the Government announced in 2016 that it would establish a TSW in Hong Kong. Taking into account the views collected during the public consultation, we have revised parts of the proposal (for details please refer to Part (5) of the reply below) and are pressing full steam ahead with the development of TSW. The TSW is a mega project involving a lot of complexities. The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau needs to co-ordinate the work of over 10 government departments, secure passage of the relevant legislative and funding proposals, and conduct tendering exercise(s) to appoint contractor(s) for the design and development of the information technology system. We plan to roll out the TSW in three phases. Phase 1 will be launched in mid-2018 covering over 10 types of trade documents whose applications could be made on a voluntary basis. Phases 2 and 3 are expected to be implemented respectively in 2022 and 2023 the earliest.
(2) It is expected that the TSW would save time and cost for the trading community, as they will no longer need to approach different government agencies individually and can lodge import and export trade documents electronically round the clock through a centralised platform. Under the TSW system, data can be reused more conveniently, thus minimising data input effort and errors. The trade can also check the status of their applications and the submitted information through the centralised TSW platform anytime.
In addition, upon full implementation of the TSW, cargo hold-ups during clearance can be minimised, bringing a smoother and seamless cargo clearance, thus enhancing trade efficiency in the long run. Furthermore, streamlining and rationalisation of various existing submission requirements of pre-shipment and post-shipment cargo information should also save time and cost.
(3) The TSW system will strive for a simple and user-friendly interface. The trade should be able to meet, with commonly used web browsers, the basic technical requirements for using the TSW system. Before the launch of Phase 1, we have already closely liaised with the relevant stakeholders for documents covered by Phase 1 and invited them to participate in functionality test and provide feedback. We will soon arrange briefings for the trade on details of the TSW, including how to use the TSW system, etc. The TSW Operation Office under the Customs and Excise Department will also provide service counters, customer support as well as 24-hour hotline service. These measures will assist the trade (including the small and medium enterprises) in adapting to the new submission arrangement.
We will continue to engage the trade, and will listen to their views through six user consultation groups with membership covering various stakeholders in the trading and logistics sectors to ensure that the phased implementation of the TSW can meet their needs and be user-friendly.
(4) The TSW will operate 24 hours a day in order to provide the trade with maximum flexibility. If a heavier volume of applications and submissions are received during certain periods, the processing time may be longer than usual. That said, we believe that the relevant government departments will endeavour to process and vet applications as soon as practicable in order to facilitate the trade's operations.
(5) During the public consultation in 2016, there was general support from the trade for the development of TSW, though concerns were expressed over the then pre-shipment documentation proposal. Thereafter, we have further engaged the trade, and have revised the proposal to address the trade's concerns and briefed the Legislative Council Panel on Commerce and Industry on the revised proposal in April 2017.
Under the revised proposal, we will maintain the existing arrangement for TDEC (i.e. TDEC may still be submitted within 14 days after import or export) and will encourage traders to submit TDEC at the pre-shipment stage voluntarily. Besides, we will unify the submission requirements of advance cargo information for all modes of transport (the data items will be modelled on those under the existing Road Cargo System). Moreover, carriers and forwarders will be required to submit master-level and house-level pre-shipment Cargo Reports respectively (the data items are mainly those in the existing Cargo Manifests) which will replace and rationalise the existing myriad of submission requirements concerning Cargo Manifests.
Ends/Wednesday, February 28, 2018