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Trinidad and Tobago's Finance Minister Colm Imbert

T&T’s Finance Minister mandates Customs to clear Piarco backlog

Trinidad and Tobago's Finance Minister Colm Imbert

Finance Minister Colm Imbert has mandated Customs and Excise Division verbally to facilitate the clearance of the backlog of goods at the Piarco International Airport, in the shortest possible time period.

On Friday, Imbert met with the logistics committee of the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago, (AMCHAM TT) along with representatives of Customs and Excise, at his office in the Finance Building, Eric Williams Financial Complex.

In March, the couriers complained of delays in clearing items and financial losses as a result of the “new” system which was implemented by Customs and Excise Division in mid-February.

The new regulations require courier companies to declare items valued less than $20,000 to Customs, which means all items must be bonded before cleared.

AMCHAM TT CEO Nirad Tewarie described Friday’s meeting as promising, and that Imbert has asked Customs to reduce the backlog, ideally by this weekend.

“We’ve been writing to Customs requesting a meeting for the last three weeks or so and we eventually asked the Minister of Finance to meet, which he did,” Tewarie said.

Speaking to the Sunday Express in further detail, chair of the AMCHAM’s logistics committee and head of Ezone Courier company, Paul Pantin, described the dialogue as a step in the right direction in dealing with the backlog issue, which has resulted in thousands of items not being delivered to couriers’ customers.

Pantin said the minister instructed that Customs should meet with the committee this week to find a common ground in the next six to eight weeks on how to facilitate, legally, a proper way to clear cargo items in a timely fashion.

The head of the courier service noted that Imbert advised them if and when the incumbent Government gets back into office after the August 10 general election, the amendments to the Customs Act to expedite shipment clearance and also be more business-friendly, would be favourably considered.

“We also pointed out to the finance minister that several Caricom countries allow between US$30 to US$50 per shipment, duty-free for personal consumption and that is what is needed in T&T. A study, which was done globally, suggested that items up to US$100, should be allowed to pass through customs duty-free and focus more on the higher priced items to tax. I am glad that the minister was very open to what the other islands currently have in place and mandated customs to not be so stringent with the rules.”

Last week, Customs and Excise Division issued a release, responding to the numerous complaints in social media regarding charges applied to items purchased by the public and imported via Express Consignment Cargo Reporters (courier companies).

Pantin distanced the larger courier services from this complaint as he said they had no problems with the taxes imposed by Customs based on CIF—(Cost, Insurance and Freight).

He said: “What we have a problem with is the procedure and how long things are taking to clear.”

Reproduced from the Trinidad Express