Opening Remarks on Phnom Penh Plan for Development Management (PPP) Learning Resource Center

Opening remarks and message by Arjun Thapan, Director General of ADB's Southeast Asia Department, at the inauguration of the Phnom Penh Plan for Development Management (PPP) Learning Resource Center, Vientiane, Lao People's Democratic Republic

Dear ladies and gentlemen, good morning, and on behalf of the Asian Development Bank, a warm welcome to all of you. Thank you, Mr. Zaripov, for your kind words and gracious welcome. First of all, let me express my gratitude to the Customs Service of the Republic of Tajikistan for the excellent arrangements and for hosting today's event.

ADB has always seen the need to improve customs cooperation, especially in Central Asia. It has therefore supported the creation of the CAREC Customs Cooperation Committee (CCC) in 2002. The CCC was established to facilitate regional trade by reforming and modernizing customs, strengthening cooperation, and enhancing partnerships with the private sector to remove barriers to trade and development.

Since its inception, the CCC has provided a forum for participating countries to discuss and exchange ideas and experiences. Over the past 7 years, it has met every year to take up and address common issues related to customs in the region.

This year's meeting aims to assess the progress we have made since last year in the priority areas of customs cooperation, which are: (1) simplifying and harmonizing customs procedures and documentation; (2) ICT customs modernization and data exchange; (3) joint customs control; (4) risk management and post-entry audit, and (5) regional transit development. The meeting will also talk about future plans for cooperation in these areas.

In the next two days, we will also hear from our partners about parallel efforts to remove barriers to smooth trade. Our speaker from the World Customs Organization will talk about the WCO roadmap "Customs in the 21st Century" or C21. Our colleagues from GTZ will discuss the progress of single window initiatives in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan.

It is well worth mentioning that our five priority areas are similar with the WCO roadmap. The top two building blocks of C21 - globally networked customs and coordinated border management -- have very strong linkage with our joint customs control and integrated border management priority areas. Meanwhile, a number of CAREC countries are moving towards the development of single-window services that will propel trade and reduce paperwork. We will benefit from the insights of GTZ regarding the challenges and benefits of implementing such schemes. We will also hear from country representatives. They will update us on the status of their initiatives over the past year in the five priority areas of customs cooperation.

For the past 8 years, promoting customs cooperation has been at the center of the CAREC Trade Facilitation Program. And significant achievements have been made. But despite the success, much remains to be done. The dynamic global environment is constantly advancing, presenting us with many challenges. This meeting will give us a better appreciation of what more we must do as we set our goals for the year to come. We must continue to persevere and set ourselves upon our tasks with more vigor. I believe we will succeed, for as long as all of us remain committed to our goals, focused in our actions, and imbued with the spirit of cooperation and unity.

On behalf of the Asian Development Bank, I would like to once again welcome you all to the 8th CAREC CCC meeting. I wish you all a productive meeting and look forward to our continued collaboration in future CCC initiatives.