18th November 2019, Skopje – Number of low-value and small consignments the citizens and the companies order online increases, thus challenges for both the state and the companies also increase. For years, the Ministry of Finance, the Customs Administration and the Government have been requested to increase the value threshold as regards the import duties relief on consignments. Minister of Finance, Nina Angelovska, announced that threshold increase is being considered, while the optimal threshold will be determined on the basis of the analyses being carried out at the Ministry at the moment.  

– When talking about facilitating cross-border e-commerce, two sides of the coin are to be taken into consideration. Citizens constantly request an increase of the value threshold for goods subject to customs duty relief. On the other hand, under the veil of greater incentives, certain category of people want to carry out illicit trade. Therefore, we work on improving the process and increasing the efficiency, Minister Angelovska said at the promotion event of the scanner for control of postal consignments at the Customs Branch Office Posta – Skopje, a donation from the US Embassy to the Republic of North Macedonia.

Underlining the room for improvement, Minister Angelovska pointed out the Logistics Performance Index, which measures the efficiency and the quality of the postal delivery and is very important for development of the e-commerce. According to this Index, Macedonia is at the 99th place from among 150 economies ranked, i.e. the index is 2.61%. Out of the 6 indicators measured under the Index, we are ranked lower as regards the efficiency of customs clearance process indicator. 

– Using the scanner is a step forward in improving the customs clearance of low-value and small consignments. It will provide for seeing the contents of such consignments without having to open them. Thus, possibility for misuse is reduced and the process is automated. In addition to import facilitation, activities related to export facilitation are also being implemented. Starting 1st January, by submitting export declarations electronically, customs duty relief is provided for the Macedonian companies and they are becoming more competitive. We also provide for the e-commerce to offer greater possibilities for growth of the national companies through their marketing on the foreign markets, Angelovska said.

From the point of view of the Customs Administration, e-commerce is used for sale of physical products online, including fake products, for which we have to be ready and to prevent, Director of the Customs Administration, Gjoko Tanasoski said.

– By using the scanner, control of e-consignments can be accelerated and possibility for detecting illegal trade can be increased. If we talk about security, protection of the population above all, which is one of the primary tasks of the Customs Administration, the scanner provides for detecting consignments which, in line with the existing legal regulations, contain matters forbidden to be imported in out country. On the other hand, our task is to protect the right to intellectual property, as well as to undertake other trade policy measures, Tanasoski pointed out. 

Minister of Finance Angelovska also informed that comprehensive analyses were ongoing, which would show the optimal threshold for import duty relief as regards low-value and small consignments. Pursuant to the existing regulations, low-value and small consignments, the value of which exceeds EUR 45, are subject to import duties. As for the EU, this threshold is EUR 150. Thereby, citizens coming back from abroad and entering the country at a border crossing can bring goods into the country in the amount of up to EUR 350, and no import duties are paid thereto. 

– When I said that we are undertaking activities aimed at improving the processes, what I meant was responding to the numerous initiatives to increase the threshold. We are discussing to increase the threshold to around EUR 80 – 90. Analyses the Ministry of Finance is carrying out at the moment will show what will be the optimal threshold, Angelovska said. 

Data show that 4,392 consignments were delivered in 2018 and 2,811 consignments were delivered in the first half of 2019 to the Customs Branch Office Posta – Skopje, showing that the number of consignments increases by around 30%. It will continue to increase, which poses additional challenge for digitalization and automation of the Macedonian Post Office. 

– We have to further work on facilitating the processes, free movement of goods, thereby carrying stronger controls the duration of which, on the basis of risk analysis, could be shortened, Angelovska pointed out.

The scanner is expected to shorten the procedure by two to three days when delivering low-value and small consignments to the final recipient, as well as to reduce the costs for the citizens, since the consignments to be determined as non-suspicion, will be release without being kept and without any additional costs charged.

The scanner, worth US$ 59,000, is a donation from the US Embassy to the Republic of North Macedonia and is part of the equipment donation in the amount of US$ 80,000, which also includes personnel training. In the past years, the US Embassy, through the EXBS Program, donated operating equipment to the Customs Administration in the amount of more than US$ 2 million, all to the end of improving the overall customs operations.

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