VIENTIANE – More than 50 Lao government officials involved in trade and cargo clearance concluded a workshop today to implement a National Single Window (NSW). The NSW aims to streamline cargo transfer and enhance Laos’ trade efficiency by 2012. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) sponsored the workshop in partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat and the Lao Customs Department.
Through a National Single Window, traders electronically submit forms for export, import, and transit procedures only once. The forms are then processed and cleared by multiple government agencies in a single integrated process. As a result, cost savings for business are substantial. The World Bank Doing Business survey estimates the cost per container of importing and exporting in Singapore, a country with an established single window, at $439 and $456, respectively. In Laos in the absence of a Single Window customs clearance process, the respective cost is approximately $2,040 to import and $1,860 to export.
Laos and other ASEAN member states have agreed to establish their National Single Windows by 2012. The ASEAN Single Window will link the National Single Windows to increase regional trade and economic growth. The ASEAN Single Window is a cornerstone of establishing the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015.
This assistance expands on existing U.S. support to the Government of Laos since 2008 to modernize and adapt its legal system and economic policies to meet the requirements for joining the World Trade Organization, implementing its bilateral trade agreement with the U.S., and meeting its obligations under the ASEAN Economic Community.
Government officials and experts from Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand traveled to Vientiane to share their National Single Window development experience. An international customs legal expert also provided a list of legal requirements necessary for the operation of a single window. Following the workshop, the legal expert will work with Lao officials to assess the legal environment and plan the next steps forward.