The Revenue Service Lesotho (RSL) yesterday hosted a national consultation meeting on the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) Programme, intended to enhance smooth trade within the southern Africa region.
The dialogue, which was held in collaboration with the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), was attended by members of the private sector and government officials among others.
The AEO Programme is an initiative of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) aimed at ensuring that cross border traders who are exemplary in compliance, competence in customs, financial insolvency and ensuring safety and security in their import or export activities, enjoy unique benefits upon registering for the AEO Programme.
These benefits include expedited clearance of goods, seamless supply chains, reduced cost of doing business as well as predictability in trading across borders, amongst others.
SACU is yet to launch implementation of the AEO Programme pending the on-going member states consultations.
Addressing a AEO consultation dialogue in Maseru yesterday, the acting RSL Commissioner General, Mosuoe Mapetla, the AEO Programme is a result of modernisation efforts of customs organisations across the SACU, the Southern African Development Countries (SADC) region, the African continent and the world at large, digitally driven to leverage the power of technology to simplify and harmonise border procedures for customers.
â€œA pivotal factor for the successful implementation of the AEO Programme in any country is collaborative and synergistic engagement of border agencies, through coordinated border management, in order to reduce duplicative activities, undue delays as well as disjointed operations, without compromising on compliance, public safety and security,â€ Mapetla said.
â€œI am reliably informed that acquiring AEO status is Lesotho has notable benefits of opening doors for seamless trade in neighbouring countries and other regions of the world through the Mutual Recognition Agreements aimed at reciprocating AEO status amongst Customs organisations,â€ he added.
On his part, SACUâ€™s Executive Secretary, Thabo Khasipe highlighted that, they are currently hosting the AEO consultations throughout the southern region ahead of the major event to be held at the end of May in South Africa.
Khasipe explained that, the AEO Programme will be officially launched to operate under the SACUâ€™s strategies meant to achieve industrialisation for the entire SACU region through export and import promotion.
â€œWe are going to ensure that we achieve the goal of trade facilitation and logistics which are very important pillars. AEO Programme is the signature programme intended to achieve speed in trade across our borders in the region and predictability in trading across our borders as well as reduced costs in undertaking that.
â€œThe underlying aim we seek to achieve is for businesses within SACU to improve their productivity.â€
Mokhethi Shelile, the Minister of Trade, Industry, Business Development and Tourism, said the government is committed to improving the business environment for private sector to grow and improve prospects for economic growth as well as employment creation.
â€œThe AEO arrangement will greatly benefit businesses which will be successfully validated by any one SACU country as they will have reduced documentary and cargo inspections across all member countries. They can potentially enjoy additional benefits, including faster customs clearance, priority treatment if goods have been selected for inspection and Expedited clearance in the event of a trade disruption,â€
â€œI encourage the private sector to â€˜Experience a hassle-free trade as an Authorised Economic Operatorâ€™ and I would like to witness more companies enrolling in this programme,â€ Shelile said.