Switzerland is a landlocked country surrounded by several EU member states. Customs regulations and cross-border formalities create administrative, logistical, non-compliance and possible other costs for Swiss enterprises when trading with companies located in EU member states and other regions of the world. This study explores the current state of play regarding cross-border trade and logistics operations in Switzerland, aiming to identify opportunities to reduce costs and to improve efficiencies in cross-border supply chains, covering procedures, tools and costs associated with import, export and transit procedures. The study was carried out by the Cross-border Research Association (CBRA), based in Lausanne, Switzerland. The study mandate was provided by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). The study lasted from May to November 2010. In total 70 companies participated in the study, either through written replies and/or verbal interviews.
The report presents the following conclusions and recommendations: Interactive and user friendly e-Customs services which facilitate the preparation, filing, tracking and storage of customs declarations, amongst other functions, can help to reduce costs and improve efficiencies in cross-border supply chains. Design and implementation of e-Customs services need to be driven by tangible benefits for the private sector, including facilitating export procedures, improving flexibility when working with customs, reducing the need to re-enter any customs data during the declaration processes, and enabling a seamless flow of data between the parties involved. The actual private sector needs vary a lot depending on the size and sector of the business in question – for example, driving down the cost of compliance appears to be a particularly important goal for the micro enterprises (10 or less employees). Other aspects on improving customs administration service levels towards the private sector include: early briefings of upcoming changes in customs procedures and data requirements, possibilities to operate outside the traditional customs opening hours, the option to have dedicated key account managers and to receive training delivered by customs experts to the private sector. The role of e-Customs regarding such ´private sector wishes´ needs to be explored further.
At the same time, e-Customs should not be perceived as a silver bullet, as there are many policy-related, legislative, operational and technical issues and hurdles to overcome before relevant objectives can be achieved. Focused e-Customs service-prototyping exercises, as well as global e-Customs benchmarking initiatives, are recommended as important next step activities in Switzerland. The development process should be done in a highly collaborative and transparent manner with all relevant governmental and private sector parties involved. One should ensure the availability of adequate financial and human expert resources without taking out resources from the current developments. The outcomes should be fully voluntary for any Switzerland-based private sector actor to use (or not to use). And finally, any aspects supporting further cross-border trade and logistics harmonization, integration and automation between Switzerland and the EU should be taken into serious consideration.
Publications and presentations:
Granqvist M., and Hintsa J. 2011. e-Customs study – Private sector views on potential benefits of further electronic customs developments in Switzerland, SECO Magazine, February 2011. Paper is available at: http://ceur-ws.org/Vol-769/paper8.pdf [Accessed 2 April 2012]
Granqvist M., Hintsa J., Lazarescu M., and Tsikolenko V., 2010. e-Customs study – Private sector views on potential benefits of further electronic customs developments in Switzerland. Study for State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). Lausanne, Switzerland on 6 December 2010. Available at SECO web-site: http://www.news.admin.ch/NSBSubscriber/message/attachments/21450.pdf [Accessed 2 April 2012]