Free Trade Agreements – Update

The Korea – Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA) entered into force on 12 December, 2014.

Further information can be found on the Australian Customs & Border Protection Service website here.

The Australian Government has announced that the Japan – Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA) will enter into force on 15 January, 2015.

Further information can be found on the Australian Customs & Border Protection Service website here.

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ACCC releases new guidance publication “Country of origin claims and the Australian Consumer Law”

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released a new publication to provide guidance to business owners in complying with the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) when making country of origin (COO) claims about their products.

The new guidance, which can be found on our Resources & Documents page in pdf format (approximately 4 Mb in size), is titled “Country of origin claims and the Australian Consumer Law” provides 30 pages of information and examples to illustrate when businesses can claim their goods are “Made in”, “Product of” or “Grown in” Australia. It also provides advice on how a business can reply on the “safe harbour” provisions contained in the ACL. The document can also be accessed from the ACCC website here where it is also available in html format.

The publication has been produced in consultation with an intergovernmental National Working Group chaired by the Department of Industry (DoI) and Treasury, and including the Australian Customs & Border Protection Service (ACBPS), the Department of Agriculture (DoA), the Department of Health (DoH), the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). The production also required engagement with state and territory ACL regulators and a number of industry associations.

“Country of origin labels are valuable tools that allow consumers to make informed choices and let businesses compete fairly” said Rod Sims, Chairman of the ACCC.

“Many consumers specifically seek out, or are willing to pay a premium for, Australian produce or products that are made in Australia.” Sims said. “This information assists manufacturers, wholesalers, importers, retailers, advertisers and anyone else who may be making country of origin representations, in deciding what claims are appropriate for their products.”

“Businesses making false or misleading representations could face penalties of up to $1.1 million under the ACL. In a recent case, the Federal Court ordered two companies supplying solar panels to pay a combined penalty of $145,000, in part, for making false and misleading country of origin representations. In addition to the monetary penalties, the Court also made other orders by consent including declarations, injunctions, corrective advertising and an order that the businesses make a contribution towards the ACCC’s costs.”

“Any claim that is likely to mislead consumers about the origin of a product will breach the law. Credence claims are a priority area for the ACCC, particularly those with the potential to adversely impact the competitive process and small businesses.”

I commend the publication as a valuable read for anyone, whether they be a manufacturer, importer, retailer, or consumer. It provides a better understanding of the ACL as it relates to country of origin claims about goods.

If you have any questions regarding the guidance provided in the publication, please Contact Us to discuss.

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Customs Import Processing Charges – Update 4

In Customs Import Processing Charges – Update 3 published on 16th December, 2013, I reported the legislation to implement the increases to the Customs IPC passed through both Houses of Parliament unaltered. The new charges will come into effect on 1st January, 2014.

As referenced in that article, ACBPS has now issued ACBPS Notice 2013/66 that provides information about the transitional arrangements for imports arriving on or around the commencement date of the new Customs IPC regime. The Notice also carries a warning that ACBPS will be monitoring the implementation of the new IPC arrangements for compliance to ensure correct reporting. Any evidence discovered of misreporting might lead to punitive action being taken by ACBPS.

In brief, the transitional scenarios outlined by ACBPS are as follows:
1.) Where an import declaration is lodged and paid on or prior to 31st December, 2013, the 2013 IPC rate will apply even if the declaration is amended after 1st January 2014.
2.) Where an import declaration is lodged on or prior to 31st December, 2013, but payment is made on or after 1st January, 2014, the 2013 IPC rate will apply.
3.) Where an import declaration is lodged on or prior to 31st December, 2013, but not paid and is then amended on or after 1st January, 2014, the 2014 IPC rates will apply.
4.) Where an import declaration is lodged on or after 1st January, 2014, the 2014 IPC rates will apply.

If you have any questions regarding this issue, please contact us to discuss.

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Documents Required by Australian Customs & Border Protection Service – Update 1

Further to the article on this subject that I published on 20th November, 2013, ACBPS has released a Fact Sheet titled “Verification of import transactions using commercial documents” that provides further information to ACBPS Notice 2013/46.

If you have any questions regarding the guidance provided in the Fact Sheet or ACBPS Notice 2013/46, please Contact Us to discuss.

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Customs Import Processing Charges – Update 3

In Customs Import Processing Charges – Update 2 published on 25th November, 2013, I reported the legislation to implement the planned increases to the Customs IPC would be tabled in Parliament with an expected implementation date of 1st January, 2014.

On Friday, 13 December, 2013, advice was received that the Import Processing Charges Amendment Bill 2013 passed through both Houses unaltered. The new charges will come into effect on 1st January, 2014.

The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (“ACBPS”) on 1st December, 2013, issued ACBPS Notice 2013/63 which clarifies the scale of charges, and the following is an extract from that Notice:

“The charging arrangements that will apply from 1 January 2014 … are as follows:
– for all consignments valued at more than $1,000.00 but less than $10,000.00, the current rates of import processing charges will continue to apply;
– for sea consignments lodged electronically with a value of $10,000.00 or more, the import processing charge will increase from $50.00 to $152.60;
– for sea consignments lodged manually with a value of $10,000.00 or more, the import processing charge will increase from $65.75 to $152.60;
– for air and post consignments lodged electronically with a value of $10,000.00 or more, the import processing charge will increase from $40.20 to $122.10;
– for air and post consignments lodged manually with a value of $10,000.00 or more, the import processing charge will increase from $48.85 to $122.10.

There will continue to be no import processing charge for consignments valued at $1,000.00 or less.”

As this ACBPS Notice was issued prior to the legislation passing through Parliament, it is expected ACBPS will shortly issue further information to advise industry and importers of any special transitional arrangements to apply to import declarations that will likely be submitted towards the end of December, 2013, for shipments arriving early January, 2014.

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Customs Information for Australians Travelling Overseas This Holiday Season

Customs have released their annual warning for Australians heading overseas during the 2013/2014 Christmas/New Year holiday season.

The Media Release advises all Australian residents to “Know Before You Go” and is provided as an advisory about what items are prohibited imports so that travellers can check before they leave Australia.

Customs have published a brochure under the title Know Before You Go. The brochure is a DL sized document extending to 32 pages of advice and information. UPDATE: The information is now available online and can be found here on the Australian Border Force website

The text of the Media Release is repeated hereunder for ease of reference by our readers:

Customs and Border Protection is reminding holiday-goers to learn the do’s and don’ts before travelling overseas during the Christmas and holiday period.

During 2012/13, Customs and Border Protection officers seized a range of prohibited goods in airports across Australia including:
•performance and image enhancing drugs;
• dangerous weapons such as firearms and knives; and
• goods that are legal in some countries, but prohibited in Australia, such as electric shock devices, knuckle dusters and BB guns.

“People may think that items such as laser pointers, flick knives, and shock devices make inexpensive novelty gifts, but they could end up costing you more than you bargained for,” Regional Director NSW, Tim Fitzgerald, said.

“While these goods may be legal in some countries, they are restricted to import under Australian law. If we catch you trying to bring goods into the country illegally, you could be charged or face serious fines.”

The easiest way for travellers to check what can and can’t be brought back into Australia, is to go online to customs.gov.au and read the ‘Know Before You Go’ brochure.

The ‘Know Before You Go’ brochure is a guide for anyone planning to travel internationally over the summer, and covers:
• what goods are prohibited to bring back into Australia;
• how to declare;
• travelling with medication;
• duty and tax; and
• the Tourist Refund Scheme.

“So that your gifts make it home for Christmas, and to avoid unnecessary penalties, don’t waste your money – know the rules before you go overseas,” Officer Fitzgerald said.

Enquiries should be directed to the Customs Information Support Centre on 1300 363 263 or information@customs.gov.au

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Customs Media Release – High School Students Beware!

In a Media Release issued today, 25th November, 2013, the Australian Customs & Border Protection Service (“ACBPS”) issued a warning to high school students, their parents and teachers, and the community in general, to beware of accepting parcels on behalf of other people whom they don’t know or are only very casually acquainted with.

ACBPS have discovered instances of students allegedly being offered a few hundred dollars to accept a package, on behalf of another person, sent from overseas through the post and then pass the package on to the person(s) responsible for the importation.

The scheme came to light when ACBPS officers were executing search warrants on a number of premises in N.S.W. with the assistance of N.S.W. Police.

The recruiting of the “mules” may have come about through social media channels, and it is alleged the people behind the scheme may have allayed any fears the students had about doing something illegal by telling them they were under adult age so they couldn’t be charged with drug importation offences. This is not correct and the ramifications for young people caught up in such schemes are far-reaching. If they are charged and convicted, they face fines of up to AUD 850,000.00 and 25 years imprisonment. Even if not imprisoned they will still carry a criminal record and this can affect future job prospects and overseas travel (many countries will not issue entry visas to people with a criminal record).

The principals of the schools attended by the 2 students so far identified have been advised of the situation by ACBPS and Police so they can alert other students not to fall for the same scam.

It is hoped that by putting this article on our web page, more people will be aware of it and so they can warn their children, friends, family, their children’s school principals of the danger.

UPDATE: ABC News Coverage

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Customs Import Processing Charges – Update 2

In an article published on 22nd November, 2013, I reported the legislation to implement the planned increase to the Customs IPC did not pass through Parliament before the Federal election in 2013 and the measures must now be reconsidered by the current Government.

As predicted in that previous article, the legislation will be tabled, unaltered, by the current Government with a planned implementation date of 1st January, 2014.

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Customs Import Processing Charges – Update 1

In a previous article I reported the intention of the Federal Government to increase the Customs Import Processing Charge (“IPC”) effective from 1 January, 2014.

However, the legislation to implement this increase did not pass through Parliament before the Federal election in 2013. The measures must now be reconsidered by the current Government.

It’s probably fairly safe to say that, due to the budget deficit issues facing the current Government, the measures can be expected to go ahead as planned. Whether or not the legislation will be able to be tabled and passed in time for implementation of the new charges on 1 January, 2014, remains to be seen.

This one remains a watching brief.

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Documents Required by Australian Customs & Border Protection Service

The Australian Customs & Border Protection Service (“ACBPS”) has provided guidance for cargo reporters, suppliers, importers and exporters, and their licensed customs brokers or other agents about acceptable standards of commercial documentation and evidence of money price paid (“EMPP”). These documents are required to support statements made in declarations to the ACBPS.

Further details are provided in ACBPS Notice 2013/46. The Notice includes an attachment listing the types of documentary evidence required.

If you have any questions regarding the guidance provided in ACBPS Notice 2013/46, please Contact Us to discuss.

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