The Framework of Standards to Assure and Facilitate Trade (SAFE), which consists of a set of recommendations provided by the World Customs Organization (WCO) to customs organizations, has as one of its purposes to create standards that guarantee the security and facilitation of the logistics chain worldwide, in addition to reinforcing the cooperation between the Customs Administrations of different countries and strengthening the cooperation between them. As we already know, the logistics chain is a series of components that include the actors that represent the different commercial sectors, actors that are mostly from the private sector. Because the private sector intervenes in the logistics chain, it is necessary for the Customs Service (public sector) to support these actors so that they carry out their activity in the most efficient way possible, providing the ease and security mentioned above.
Based on its purpose of providing security and facilitation of international trade, the SAFE Framework has designed the figure of the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO). An AEO is defined by the SAFE Framework as “an integral part of the international movement of goods, whatever the reason, which was recognized by a national customs administration for complying with the WCO standards or equivalent standards for logistics chain security. AEOs can be manufacturers, importers, exporters, customs brokers, carriers, grouping operators, intermediaries, port, airport or terminal operators, integrated transport operators, warehouse operators, distributors, transport operators”.
The Central American Uniform Customs Code defines the AEO as follows: “Authorized economic operators are persons who may be authorized by the Customs Service to facilitate the clearance of their merchandise.”
In other words, the AEO is a person to whom the Customs Service grants ease and security, through certain benefits, to carry out its activity in relation to the logistics chain. The AEO achieves this grant by proving to be reliable and safe; and for its compliance with all current regulations to which it is obliged, always with the objective of facilitating international trade.
Among the benefits that the Customs Service (Honduran Customs Administration) grants to the AEOs, are the following:
a) Simplified and expedited procedures for dispatching cargo providing a minimum of information.
b) Possibility of being considered as the first option in the tests in the implementation of new facilitation projects developed by the Customs Services of each State.
c) Reduction in the percentage of control of their Declarations and their cargo.
d) Priority in customs controls to which their declarations or cargoes are subject.
e) Personalized assistance by the Customs Service.
f) Possibility of dispatching the goods at the premises of the Authorized Economic Operator or at another place authorized by Customs.
g) Any others that the Customs Administration may establish.
The requirements that a company must meet to obtain authorization as an AEO by the Customs Service are:
a. Have at least three (3) years of operations in international trade in the State.
b. Have sufficient financial availability to meet its commitments according to the nature and characteristics of the type of economic activity carried out;
c. Demonstrated compliance with the tax and customs legal framework for three (3) consecutive years,
d. Have an adequate administrative management system and records of its commercial operations that allow carrying out the controls of customs services;
e. Have adequate security and protection measures in relation to cargo, staff, business partners, IT, transport, facilities, as well as training and awareness of its staff.
Currently, there are around 80 countries with AEO programs, among which we find the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, the European Union, Japan and China. Any actor that participates in the logistics chain (manufacturers, importers, exporters, customs agents, shipping companies, carriers, logistics operators, and customs warehouses) can opt for the figure of the AEO, which is granted for 3 years with the possibility of being extended for the same term.