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UNECE continues to be worried about the functioning of the TIR Convention in Russia

Published: 15 August 2013

The UNECE secretariat, custodian of the TIR Convention, welcomes that the Russian Federal Customs Service (RFCS) has delayed until 14 September the implementation of its decision to introduce an additional customs guarantee obligation for TIR operations. This decision, which has not yet been officially communicated to TIR Contracting Parties or to UNECE, was originally announced to take effect on 14 August. One month, however, may not be adequate for reaching a resolution that is satisfactory to all stakeholders. The crisis in the functioning of the TIR system remains imminent with serious concerns existing about its impact on international trade and transport.

The UNECE secretariat welcomes the establishment of a working group by the Association of International Road Transport Carriers (ASMAP), the national guarantor of TIR, the International Road Transport Union (IRU) and the RFCS to clarify the debt situation. An extraordinary meeting of the TIR Convention’s Executive Board (TIRExB) will be held in Geneva on 27 August 2013 to facilitate an agreement on the smooth functioning of the TIR Carnet and the TIR customs transit guarantee by Russia.

The TIR System is the only global customs transit system, the functioning of which has been challenged by the RFCS decision. The RFCS intends – on short notice and without prior consultation with the other Contracting Parties as is required by the TIR Convention – to introduce additional, national guarantees on top of those provided for under the TIR Convention. This de facto means the non-recognition of the TIR Carnet by Russian Customs Authorities.

Should this decision by the RFCS be maintained, it will inevitably disrupt foreign trade to,  from and through Russia, while also leading to huge delays and queues at borders. It may also cause serious economic consequences for the road transport industry and the foreign trade of the Russian Federation, its main trade partners and several other TIR Contracting Parties. Based on the number of TIR journeys, among the countries that would be most affected are Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, and Turkey. Landlocked Central Asian countries would be vulnerable due to losing a facilitation tool and would thus face increased access barriers to international trade. Each year, Russian transport companies conduct some 700,000 TIR transport operations in the other TIR Contracting Parties and around 1,500,000 TIR operations terminate in the Russian Federation. Consequently, the move could potentially cripple road freight movement in Europe and the entire Eurasian region, bringing additional guarantee costs to a system that functioned smoothly for decades.

Although it is the legal obligation of any Contracting Party to the TIR Convention to inform the relevant bodies about problems in the implementation of the Convention, neither the Administrative Committee, nor the TIRExB, or the UNECE secretariat were timely or properly informed about the introduction of the planned measure. As the custodian of the TIR Convention, the UNECE secretariat, in letters from UNECE Executive Secretary Sven Alkalaj to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and from UNECE Transport Division Director Eva Molnar and TIRExB Chair Anna Dubielak to the head of the RFCS, Andrei Belyaninov, requested clarification from the relevant Russian authorities and urged the RFCS to cancel the planned measure. 

According to news published by the RFCS, the main reason for their decision was that ASMAP of Russia, as the national guarantor of TIR, would have accumulated a 20-billion ruble debt due to the increased number of customs claims resulting from TIR infringements. The TIRExB regularly monitors outstanding claims from all TIR Contracting Parties. The last review was in 2012 – and at that time neither the statistics, nor RFCS representatives signaled any unusual growth of claims or debts. Nevertheless, this is a very serious issue that must be clarified and resolved by the RFCS, ASMAP and IRU. Their decision to set up a working group is therefore very much welcome.

The UNECE secretariat recalls that an appropriate framework for raising concerns or recommendations regarding the TIR system exists within the TIR Convention. Any Contracting Party may, at any time, raise relevant issues to be discussed. The next sessions of the intergovernmental TIR bodies TIRExB, the Administrative Committee for the TIR Convention (AC.2) and the Working Party on Customs Questions affecting Transport (WP.30)] will be held in Geneva from 30 September to 4 October 2013. However, even before this, the TIRExB will hold an extraordinary meeting on August 27.

Note to editors

How does the TIR system work?

Today, 68 countries are TIR members and benefit from this border crossing facilitation tool. The TIR system offers facilitated movement for international trade with an annual value of more than EUR 500 billion. The simplification of standard requirements for national transit procedures is one of the main advantages brought by the TIR System. Under the TIR procedure, the cargo is thoroughly checked at departure and then sealed. Only the seals and external conditions of the load compartment or container are inspected at borders, thus allowing smoother transit and resulting in a significant reduction of financial and time costs for customs and traders alike. The use of the TIR Carnet as the only customs document increases the accuracy of data transfer between customs administrations. Other benefits include protection of revenues by means of international guarantee and increased security through access to advanced ICTs.  Overall, it translates into increased competitiveness on a macro level.

It is important to recall that mutual trust and reciprocity are pivotal for the TIR system. The TIR guarantee system functions as a guarantee chain that is composed of national guaranteeing associations. Today, the IRU is administering the only guarantee chain authorized by the Administrative Committee of the TIR Convention, i.e. by all Contracting Parties to the Convention. In addition, all national associations composing the IRU guarantee chain also need to be authorized by the Customs administrations of their countries to act as guarantor and issue TIR Carnets.  Therefore, ASMAP - as a member of the IRU guarantee chain  - guarantees all TIR operations that start, terminate or pass through the territory of the Russian Federation, not only those covered by TIR Carnets it has issued but also those issued by the other associations in the chain. Reciprocally, TIR Carnets issued by ASMAP are guaranteed by the other national associations in the chain when they are in use in other Contracting Parties.

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

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CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

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