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Certificate of orgin process moves online

The Ministry of Commerce launched its long-awaited online system to generate certificates of origin (COs) yesterday.

The new system, developed in partnership with Singapore-based Crimson Logic, is expected to speed up and simplify the process of getting a CO, a document which identifies where a product originated. Exporters can get various approvals online, saving them the trouble of visiting multiple departments and having to pay bribes to push through their applications.

The new COs will be authorised with digital e-signatures, as compared to the old process where exporters had to make their way to the national capital to get them signed and stamped by hand.

But there is still a significant hurdle to overcome before full automation for many exporters. The European Union, currently the Kingdom’s biggest export destination, only accepts certificates of origin with a physical signature.

“I am happy with the system but it is not 100 per cent automated yet,” Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol said yesterday at a ceremony to launch the automated process. “We need to get the approval and agreement with the EU and other importer countries. If not we still sign by hand.”

Jean-Francois Cautain, EU Ambassador to Cambodia, said the new system was a welcome move but that a final call on accepting the digital signature will be taken by the EU headquarters, after consulting with member states.

“The minister has pointed out this issue and we have referred it to the headquarters,” Cautain said, declining to put a timeline on when this decision might be.

The new system will enable the ministry to monitor the time taken at each step of the process and pinpoint any time delays and the department involved.

“We will do measurements of the time from which it arrives to the time that they get the CO,” Chanthol said.

Using the new procedure, exporters can make online or offline payments for their COs at three banks – Acleda, Canadia and Foreign Trade Bank of Cambodia, with the number of banks set to increase in the future.

Sok Sopheak, general director of trade support services, said the ministry started allowing companies to apply for a CO online last year, but still needed physical signatures, and that the new digital COs will be issued starting next month.

He said work was under way to increase the number of banks where payments could be made and also offering other online payment methods, like credit cards.

“All banks will need to adjust their systems. We start with the three banks and will open for the others [later],” said Sopheak.

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