On 3 July 2013 the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service ("Customs") released its Blueprint for Reform 2013-2018.

This follows an announcement late last year by the Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Jason Clare, that there would be a "root and branch reform" of Customs.

As could be expected given the current political climate, a significant focus of the Blueprint is surrounding border security issues.

However, there are also some proposed reforms in respect of trade, aimed at automating and simplifying border clearance processes to provide a more seamless approach and encourage trade to and from Australia.

One of the stated intentions is for importers to provide Customs with information "once only", which can be re-used wherever possible for all electronic cargo clearances and to identify goods of concern before they arrive in Australia.

The key areas of focus to transform trade and goods include:

  1. facilitating trusted trade;
  2. connecting cargo systems;
  3. the use of eCargo - digital by default; and
  4. improving trade assistance technologies and tools.

There is also some commentary regarding a stronger and smarter compliance approach.

A range of parties, including the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia have been invited to actively engage and consult with Customs in relation to the Blueprint.

It will be interesting to see how Customs will balance the legitimate and appropriate aims of ensuring security and integrity of Australia's borders with improved trade facilitation. There may be some tension in reconciling these very different but important objectives.

Obviously any changes to trade facilitation will impact importers, exporters and service providers.  It is important that any changes are implemented in a practical and efficient manner taking into account all of the relevant stakeholders.