Silk Road Customs Initiative
Having regard to the need for improving the customs practices in an effort to contribute to trade facilitation in the Silk Road region, Turkish Customs Administration has launched Silk Road Customs Initiative among the Silk Road Customs Administrations. This initiative was introduced at the “First International Forum on the Role of Customs Administration on Facilitating and Promoting Trade among Silk Road Countries” which was held on 25 October 2008 in Antalya, Turkey. Antalya Declaration was adopted at the Forum.
The main purpose of the initiative was to revitalize ancient Silk Road, turn it into a preferable route and to increase the trade and transportation volume between Europe and China and among the countries on this route through harmonization, facilitation and acceleration of border crossing procedures among Silk Road Countries.
Following the first forum,
• The 2nd International Silk Road Forum, during which Baku Declaration was adopted, was convened on 11-12 November 2009, in Baku, Azerbaijan.
• The 3rd International Silk Road Forum, during which Tehran Declaration was adopted, was hosted by I.R. of Iran on 19-20 October 2010, in Tehran.
• The 4th International Silk Road Forum, during which Batumi Declaration was adopted, was held on 27-28 October 2011 in Batumi, Georgia.
• The 5th International Silk Road Forum, during which Istanbul Declaration was adopted, was held on 29-30 November 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey.
• The 6th International Silk Road Forum, during which Qebele Declaration was adopted, was held on 14-15 November 2013 in Qebele, Azerbaijan.
• The 7th International Silk Road Forum during which Aktau Declaration was adopted, was held on 23-24 November 2016 in Aktau, Kazakhstan.
During the 7th Forum, experiences of the states on the simplification of customs procedures at border crossing points, exchange of preliminary data, Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) system, and customs cooperation within the framework of Silk Road Project were discussed. On behalf of the Turkish Customs Administration, the delegation of the Ministry of Customs and Trade of the Republic of Turkey headed by the Deputy Undersecretary Mr. Remzi AKÇİN delivered presentations and shared the experiences and projects of Turkish Customs on "exchange of preliminary data"; AEO and “Silk Road Customs Cooperation Initiative".
At the end of Forum, “Aktau Declaration” was adopted. The representatives of the Customs Community declared to their willingness to play active role within the framework of Silk Road Project.
After the first Forum, "Strategy Paper to Facilitate and Simplify Border Crossings for the Silk Road Countries” was drafted and it was adopted in the second forum. The paper paved the way for establishing a working group aiming at elaboration of the “Caravanserai Project”, outlines of which were already set out in the Strategy Paper to take concrete decisions for the realization of the mentioned Project.
The Caravanserai Project was launched in 2009 as the concrete dimension of Silk Road Customs Initiative for the purpose facilitating the border crossings, harmonization and simplification of customs procedures and reduction of border crossing time across the ancient Silk Road up till the Chinese border.
As foreseen in the Batumi Declaration, the Experts Meeting of the Silk Road Customs Initiative was hosted by the Ministry of Customs and Trade of Republic of Turkey on 30-31 January 2012, in Ankara, Turkey. Border Crossing Points were determined as the route of 1st stage of Pilot Project. During the visits, the check list was completed. The findings and conclusions of the report of the pilot were submitted to the 5th International Silk Road Forum.
The Heads of Customs Administrations, and designated representatives of the participating countries, appreciated the studies undertaken by Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan following the 4th Forum, in an attempt to shape the pilot phase of the Project Caravanserai and welcomed the reports presented.
On the occasion of the forum, the "Letter of Intent on Promoting and Facilitating Trade among Silk Road Countries” was signed among the Customs Administrations of Republic of Turkey, Republic of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Republic of Kazakhstan and The Kyrgyz Republic. In conformity with the decisions taken within the frame of the Letter of Intent, the second stage North Route of the Caravanserai Project was launched by inclusion of Republic of Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic in the Project.
The outcomes were presented in the 6th International Silk Road Forum which was held on 14 - 15 November 2013 in Qebele, Azerbaijan.
On the other hand, as decided at the Fifth Meeting of the Heads of Customs Administrations of the Turkic Council on 3 June 2016 in Baku, the visits to Kyrgyz-China Border Crossing Point of Torugart were realized on 27 September, 2016 whereas visits were paid to Altynkol Logistics Centre and Khorgoz Free Trade Zone located in the Kazakh-Chinese border on 29 September 2016. During the visits, the check list was completed.
The visits have shown that the Customs Administrations are working self-sacrificingly for the development of international trade relations and the officers are also dedicated to work. It is noted that Khorgos Free Trade Zone and Altynkol Logistic Centre are considered to become a leading Chinese project as the One Belt and One Road as a network of interconnected land and sea ports, special economic zones, new cities, and free trade zones.
It was also observed that the route and the aims of Caravanserai Project are totally compatible with China’s One Road One Belt Project. Experiences gained from the Caravanserai Project can be useful and feasible for China’s Project. Therefore, it is suggested to cooperate and work together with the Chinese Customs on the Belt and Road Region.
It is believed that joint work conducted among Customs Administrations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia will go longer. It is important to reiterate here the intention to proceed this work further for other countries willing to take part on later stages.