Sri Lanka Customs (SLC) launched the Compliant Economic Operator (CEO) and Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) initiative, at the Sri Lanka Customs Headquarters on 20th January, 2022.
The Chief Guest at the event was Mr. K.A. Vimalenthirarajah, Director General of the Department of Trade and Investment Policies of the Ministry of Finance, with the Secretary to the Ministry of Trade, Mrs. Badrani Jayawardena also in attendance.
The CEO/AEO programme is in line with the World Customs Organization (WCO) SAFE Framework of Standards and the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement aimed at securing and facilitating global trade by expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods by reducing the time and cost associated with cross-border transactions. Operators who meet the eligibility criteria published by Sri Lanka Customs, including demonstrating high legal and operational compliance and maintaining a high level of supply chain security, will benefit from additional trade facilitation measures such as rapid release, reduced documentation and data requirements, and fewer physical inspections. Any entity involved in the international supply chain that undertakes Customs related activity in Sri Lanka is eligible to apply for CEO/AEO status.
The AEO programme offers two tiers of certifications i.e., Compliant Economic Operator (CEO) for operators with high legal and operational compliance and Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) for operators who maintain high levels of supply chain security standards in addition to the CEO compliance requirements
The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce was the Strategic Event Partner of the launch ceremony. Under this Strategic Partnership, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce will provide training for selected private sector companies, on fulfilling the criteria required in order to be eligible for the CEO/AEO programme, as well as capacity building in order to implement the required changes.
Mr. Vimalenthirarajah hailed the launch of the CEO/AEO programme as a landmark achievement in the context of Customs administration, and called upon all stakeholders to work together with the ultimate goal of ensuring that all companies eventually attain AEO status. ‘The CEO/AEO initiative is an important step towards enhancing the ease of doing business ranking and the economic environment in Sri Lanka’, he stated
Speaking at the launch, the Director General of Customs Major General (Retd.) G Vijitha Ravipriya stated that ‘as the government authority which controls the movement of goods across Sri Lankan borders, we see this programme as a wonderful opportunity to create a hassle free business environment for the legitimate trading community’, and assured programme participants of the fullest support of SLC. Secretary of the AEO Committee Mr. M.S.J. De Silva added that ‘we are committed to recognising legitimate trade, and AEO status in that sense is the highest recognition on offer. If you are a stakeholder of Customs who is involved in the import-export trade and operate as a true trade partner contributing towards nation-building, you are the one we are looking for. Nothing will matter more than trust and compliance in vital areas of operation’.
Secretary General and CEO of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Mr. Manjula de Silva affirmed that ‘the CCC will extend its fullest support to SLC by coaching the private sector companies to fulfill the eligibility criteria necessary to join the programme and benefit from the trade facilitation provided by AEO/CEO programme. CCC will also promote this initiative amongst the private sector companies to become CEO/AEO operator of the Sri Lanka Customs’.
Following the launch of a pilot project in 2020, three companies, Basilur Tea Exports Pvt. Ltd., Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC and Paranthan Chemicals Company Ltd. that were selected from over 30 applicants following a rigorous validation process by the AEO Committee, were awarded CEO status at the event by the Chief Guest.
The AEO website, which facilitates a paperless and seamless end-to-end online application process for applicant economic operators, accessible at https://aeo.customs.gov.lk was launched at the event by Mrs. Jayawardena.