American Chamber of Commerce praises new Customs Act

Trade has always been at the heart of Thai-U.S. relations, and the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) in Thailand heaped praise on the Thai government last week for passing a new Customs Act that it said will increase transparency and efficiency in trade between the two allies.

“We are pleased with the passing of the new customs law … [that] will result in greater efficiency, transparency and trade facilitation,” said Jeffrey Nygaard, president of the AMCHAM Thailand board. “This improvement will bring Thailand’s customs law closer to international best practices and in line with current free-trade-agreement trends.”

The openness and business-minded outlook of successive Thai governments was evidenced in its willingness to work with AMCHAM Thailand in a consultative role to help draft the Customs Act, which took effect on May 17 upon publication in the Royal Gazette. The new law replaces one that had been on the books since 1926.

Satisfying all stakeholders in formulating an updated Customs Act was difficult and complex, and AMCHAM has been working with the Thai government on the new law for the past 12 years. The process involved many debates and consultations, and several drafts were written before the current version was finally passed.

The new act contains many important changes. Among them are the elimination of liability presumptions; the decrease in the percentage of fines claimed as rewards for whistleblowers and the introduction of caps to such rewards; the reduction of penalty fines; and the streamlining of procedures and imposition of deadlines for post-clearance audits and appeals.

Customs rules, regulations and processes are common points of contention in trade relationships, and often require long and intense negotiations. The trade relationship with the United States is one of great importance to Thailand. According to the U.S. Department of State “The United States is Thailand’s third-largest bilateral trading partner, after Japan and China. In 2015, total two-way trade was estimated over $37 billion.”

It was a desire to establish a new trading relationship that led American captain Stephen Williams to call on the port of Bangkok in 1818 when the Kingdom was still known as Siam. He was the first U.S. citizen to set foot in what is now Thailand. The two countries signed a Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1833, formalizing diplomatic and trade relations and establishing Thailand as the first treaty ally of the United States in Asia.

“AMCHAM Thailand remains committed to maintaining a constructive dialogue with the Royal Thai Government in order to facilitate a fair, vibrant and business-friendly environment in Thailand,”Nygaard said.