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Jan 25, 2019

World Customs Day observed in Belize

Today, the Customs and Excise Department joined the rest of the world to observe World Customs Day. The World Customs Organization is dedicating 2019 to the swift and smooth cross-border movement of goods, people and means of transport, with the slogan “SMART borders for seamless Trade, Travel and Transport.” Belize Customs, as a member of the W.C.O., showcased its efforts and activities at an open day. Reporter Andrea Polanco stopped in at the festivities and shares more:


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The Customs and Excise Department is responsible for the enforcement, policies, tariffs, and even certification to ensure that there is swift and smooth movement of trade, travel and transport at our border points. As the World Customs Day 2019 is celebrated, the emphasis is to ensure that our borders are “SMART” to accommodate all this traffic through easy and secure processes. SMART is an acronym for Secure, Measurable, Automated, Risk Management-based and Technology-driven.


Therese Martinez

Therese Martinez, Customs Examiner I, Customs & Excise Department

“In other words, we must find approaches to allow that to happen for it to bring about low cost to traders and for us to be able to facilitate trade. So, the theme focuses on securing borders for us to also measure our performance in terms of the release time of good and the release time of people travelling and also for us to utilize automation to solve these issues where we are able then to move goods, move people faster and for us to look at risk base management to secure the trade to secure the movement of people and to also use the technology to be able to use some of the technology to make the facilitation occur.”


The Customs and Excise Department will standardize and harmonize these procedures through the signing of an agreement later this year. That agreement is a priority for Directorate of Foreign Trade, as this will make for easier flow of goods.


Andy Sutherland

Andy Sutherland, Director General, Directorate General of Foreign Trade

“We are very much keen on implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement in 2019. That of course is to improve the import-export process through the clearance and release process, by improving efficiency; documentary process; through improved transparency for the private sector and others; and of course to deal with more easier procedures for goods to transit the country.”


Although the Customs and Excise Department wants to make it easier for cross-border movement of goods, people and means of transport, there are still a large number of customs offences committed every year. The issue of contraband still persists – and is a growing problem particularly in northern Belize. Persons who live in communities along the river find it easier and cheaper to go across the border by boat to smuggle in goods to use and to re-sell. It is an illegal practice that results in loss of revenues for government. The enforcement unit of the Customs Department carries out a number of patrols and operations – while there is the illegal importation – these offenders also steal vehicles to take across the borders to trade for arms and drugs.  And these illicit activities are growing – as Ronald Sanchez of Customs Department shares; they’ve seen just how crafty the contrabandistas have become – putting adding pressure on the enforcement teams.


Ronald Sanchez

Ronald Sanchez, Intel/Enforcement Officer, Customs & Excise Department

“As you guys may know that the same routes used for contraband are also used to transport illegal stuff such as drugs, weapons, ammunition and even human trafficking. So, it is increasing – the challenges are increasing and we are trying to step up our enforcement as much as possible to see how we can combat the situation. The main thing that you will see that are bringing in contraband would be vegetables simply because the rate of duty is kind of high for that. If I am not mistaken, the import duty for that is about forty percent. Also you would find because we have restrictions on beers and stuff coming into the country, you will find that is the one of the main things they are bringing in as contraband. The beers, the soft-drinks and mostly vegetables. In the Christmas time we have an increase in the dynamite and pop shots. Those are a pain but that those are it for the most part.”


The Customs Department reports they’ve had success in prosecution of contraband offenders; however, many of the persons settle the matter out of court. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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