Hector Mario Montemuiño Aldao
Director General of Montemuiño Customs Agents
I have been a customs agent for almost half a century now. I still remember waiting by the port gate for the bundles with the goods that our customers imported. A trustworthy Customs Dispatcher would do his “magic” to get in the objects that would then be traded by wholesalers and retailers.
In the last 20 years the concepts of security and facilitation in international trade have changed substantially. And so has changed the type of relationship between Brokers or Customs Agents and Customs officers and other governmental agencies increasingly involved in customs clearance of goods. Our relationship with importers and exporters, those who trade between countries, has also evolved.
In Uruguay, since 2008 many changes have been implemented. Government, through the Ministry of Economy and Finance, has led a customs modernization process supported by highly trained professionals. All relevant public and private actors have been engaged in a process that has gradually shaped a new generation of actors in customs activity and international trade. Today the demand is for the provision of reliable services, complying with all national and international legal and technical requirements. Our professionals are aware the way business is conducted can attract or can be a “fertile” way for those whose business is the illicit activity, whether smuggling, drug trafficking or terrorism; and we know that they only benefit a few and harm absolutely everyone else.
As part of this modernisation, Customs and the public actors involved in international trade have evolved from one-to-one inspection -impossible to adequately fulfil in a world where the speed of growth and development surpasses everything imaginable- to more efficient processes supported by technology. This allows protecting their nationals from those harmful situations. At the same time necessary levels of trade facilitation have been established. This requires reliable, trained, ethical and committed partners with consistent, solid and professional values.
Thus, among the many measures taken, we saw the emergence of the Authorized Economic Operator, which in Uruguay is called Qualified Economic Operator (OEC).
In Uruguay, Law 19,276 of 2014, known as the Uruguayan Customs Code CAROU, recognizes in its article 40 the figure of the qualified economic operator and defines it as any natural or legal person linked to the customs activity, which has been approved as such by the National Directorate of Customs based on its performance in compliance with customs legislation and other requirements in the terms established by the Executive Power, and establishes that those natural or legal persons approved as OECs may benefit from simplified procedures of customs control and other facilities.
Starting in 2015, several law decrees dictated by the Executive were enacted, regulating the aforementioned Law, always with the same purpose, that of having a modern, facilitating Customs, without losing the oversight control that is essential to fulfil, in coordination with the other sanitary organisms, for the protection of the people who live and develop their activities in the Uruguayan territory.
Our firm immediately integrated into the process. We already had obtained the ISO 9001 Quality certification and therefore we developed our processes further in order to integrate the safety standards required to demonstrate compliance, and in order to obtain the OEC recognition by the National Customs Authority.
From the moment we incorporated the different aspects required to be a Qualified Economic Operator, we were able to appreciate the advantages, not so much externally but internally in our organization.
In Uruguay taxes and duties are paid at the time importation. Thus, benefiting from payment of taxes, duties, fees, charges, etc. after the release of the goods, by virtue of the trust in the operator, does not apply.
However, OEC companies receive assistance from Customs officers in case of difficulties in the processing of their operations, and each Customs office has appointed an OEC Officer. Also, OEC companies’ files receive urgent completion treatment by the Administration. Additionally, Customs maintains an updated list of OEC companies on its website and promotes training courses, events and workshops for operators on issues related to the OEC program.
For companies that carry out import, export or transit operations, having the OEC qualification means fewer physical and documentary controls -red and orange channel reviews-, while having priority when selected for documentary and physical controls. Further, OEC certified companies enjoy a reduction of post clearance controls as well as simplified procedures. OEC has priority in the green channel DUA, and it can carry out imports in the form of advance DUA clearance for all merchandise. Selectivity is established by vehicle in Open land border imports and / or exports.
OEC transporters can send SMS messages in order to register your truck for entrance / exit. Customs will authorize the entrance / exit on a 24×7 regime. International OEC land transporters are allowed to consolidate merchandise in transit regime with those exports that go through the same land border.
Customs Brokers can substitute paper documents in the red or orange channel revisions for image documents attached to DUA.
It is important to note that when all the companies participating in the logistics chain are OEC, red and orange channels are minimised.
Based on direct experience, we acknowledge that OEC measures work correctly, including priority in the Gex files, support and assistance by AEO Officer to the companies and priority when selected for documentary and physical controls.
We would like to advance further. For example, on the substitution of self-guarantees immobilized in favour of the National Customs Directorate by bank guarantees and / or insurance; and on modifying or rectifying data / DUA, followed by communication to Customs within the next 24 hours.
It is hoped that the OEC concept continues to be developed and grows as a reliable operator for the Customs of my Country but also for all the customs with which Uruguay has signed or can sign Mutual Recognition Agreements.
And last but not least, we’d like to congratulate and support the Regional MRA initiative that was presented by various Customs of the American continent at the International Seminar of the Authorized Economic Operator held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on November 26-27, 2018.