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Customs officials busy on Day 1 of FTA`s effectuation

Dong-A-Ilbo, Seoul

Customs officials busy on Day 1 of FTA`s effectuation

16 March 2012

A cargo plane that departed from Chicago arrived at Incheon International Airport at 7:39 a.m. Thursday. The plane was the first vehicle to bring U.S. freight to Korea since the bilateral free trade agreement took effect Thursday.

After the plane`s engines stopped, staff standing by began unloading cargo quickly. Tens of boxes weighing 80 tons were wrapped in vinyl and nets and placed on planks called “palettes.” Most of them were American-made machines, electronics, clothing and medicines. Tariffs on American-made clothing were 32 percent and those on medicines 6.5 percent, but after the effectuation of the accord, they became no-tariff items.

Sixty-four cargo planes fly between Korea and the U.S. every week. With bilateral trade growing, more flights will operate between both countries, however. Oh Sang-woo in charge of customer service at Korean Air said, “Korea exports car parts and semiconductors and imports medicines and clothing mainly by plane,” adding, “We expect that the effectuation of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement will further increase outbound shipments.”

At 2:20 p.m. at a loading dock of Dongyeong Cold Storage in the bonded area of Busan, an import inspection of frozen flatfish from the U.S. began. One hundred tons of flatfish, the first fisheries product to clear customs after the accord took effect, underwent inspection. The 10-percent tariff on the product was removed Thursday. Under the Tariff Rate Quotas system, Korea can import 1,530 tons of frozen flatfish without tariffs this year.

After finishing basic office work such as document verification in the morning, staff at Busan’s customs office began outcall inspection work in the afternoon. They first checked the dates of port arrival, cargo management, quantities, cargo receivers and place of origin. They also took pictures of trademarks proving safety under food safety and hygiene laws. Then they conducted a visual inspection of the product by opening packages and randomly collected three flatfish as samples.

After a 30-minute inspection, the customs officers moved to another cold storage to examine another 221 tons of flatfish. They returned to their office around 5 p.m. and registered import permit certificates with the computer network of the Korean Customs Service at around 7 p.m.

The flatfish at Dongyeong Cold Storage arrived at the port of Busan Feb. 21 and moved to the storage four days later. Jang Seong-ho, president of the company that imported the product, said, “Due to tariff removal after the effectuation of the Korea-U.S. free trade accord, the benefits we get are worth 15 million won (13,300 U.S. dollars),” adding, “We can provide flatfish to consumers at low prices.”

Other provincial customs offices and free trade assistance centers were also busy handling imported products. Strategy and Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan also held a discussion on utilizing the accord at a free trade utilization center in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province. “All FTA assistance organizations such as municipal governments, customs offices and FTA utilization centers should help small- and mid-size companies well utilize free trade agreements. Smaller companies are also advised to have an interest in utilizing FTAs and make preparations,” Bahk said.

Separately, the Korea Customs Service said that based on a survey on products clearing customs Thursday, the first product to benefit from tariff lifting was plastic hoses. The product that Micro Poise Measurement Systems Korea imported through the customs office at the Incheon airport was reported via computer networks at 5:22 a.m. and the report was accepted at 6:56 a.m. The 8-percent tariff on the product, whose price is 197 U.S. dollars, was removed the same day.