New version of the TRS Guide
The WCO has released a new edition of the “Guide to Measure the Time Required for the Release of Goods,” known as the Time Release Study (TRS) Guide. An update of the TRS software and its User Manual will follow in the coming months.
The WCO Time Release Study is an internationally accepted strategic tool to measure the actual time taken for the release and/or clearance of goods – from the time of arrival until the physical release of cargo – as well as the effectiveness and efficiency of border procedures relating to imports, exports and transit movements of goods. It helps in identifying associated bottlenecks objectively, and in addressing them in an efficient and effective manner.
Article 7.6.1 of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) stipulates that “Members are encouraged to measure and publish their average release time of goods periodically and in a consistent manner, using tools such as, inter alia, the Time Release Study of the World Customs Organization.”
Moreover, the TRS Guide is considered by the WCO, its development partners and the donor community to be a useful instrument when undertaking a comprehensive assessment of trade facilitation needs and priorities, as well as the periodic monitoring and measuring of the outcomes of the implementation of specific measures and associated policies and programmes.
The WCO Secretariat and Customs administrations worked in close consultation with other international organizations involved in cross-border policies in updating the latest edition of the TRS Guide, based on new and emerging strategic and business needs.
In Version 3 of the Guide, the WCO strongly advocates that Customs administrations conduct a TRS in a periodic manner, in close collaboration with other relevant government agencies and private sector stakeholders, with Customs being the lead agency in the planning, design, analysis, and further implementation of the TRS cycle.
Version 3, for the first time, provides detailed information on the use of a TRS in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the TFA provisions. It highlights the different key approaches to conducting a TRS and introduces a “simplified TRS,” which focuses only on that part of the clearance process that directly relates to Customs, as well as other more complex forms of a TRS such as consecutive or simultaneous TRS’s at identified border points, involving other relevant government agencies and stakeholders.
While the three phases of the TRS are maintained, namely (I) preparation of a study, (II) collection and recording of data and (III) analysis of data and the conclusion, Version 3 of the TRS Guide adds an additional phase, phase IV, which covers monitoring and evaluation. Phase IV lays the groundwork for countries to conclude and evaluate one TRS cycle before preparing to move to the next.
Additionally, the new TRS Guide introduces the concept of physical release, which is defined as the step in the clearance process when the goods are physically placed at the disposal of the importer or exporter or his/her legal representative for home consumption or export, or for any other Customs procedure. In the case of export or international transit, this is the stage when the goods are considered to have left the Customs territory.
Furthermore, this new version of the Guide provides detailed information on the use of modern technologies in the collection, collation and analysis of data in order to improve the TRS process (e.g., electronic processing systems, the Single Window, smartphones, RFID seals and GPS-enabled track and trace). The idea here is to leverage the growing use of information and communication technologies (ICT) by Customs, other government agencies and private sector stakeholders.
The new version also includes guidance on business process planning and proposes a method for conducting a joint TRS in a bilateral or multilateral context, as well as practical guidance on carrying out a TRS for performance measurement along specific regional trade corridors.
Finally, the Guide provides key principles and processes for conducting a TRS in the context of international transit, especially its use in specific trade corridors in respect of the movement/transit of consignments, as well as on the carrying out of a joint TRS at common border points involving neighbouring countries.
Thanks to inputs and suggestions provided by Members and stakeholders of the WCO, all processes and methods are supplemented by updated information on WCO Members’ experiences and best practices, practical perspectives, lessons learned and innovative solutions employed in carrying out a TRS.
The development of the TRS dates back to the early 1990s where Japan and the United States agreed on a methodology and jointly conducted a study. The first TRS was conducted in February 1991 in the wake of the discussions under the framework of the Japan-US Structural Impediment Initiative (SII), with a view to examining the existence of, and degree of bottlenecks against the smooth flow of goods in trade, and to stimulating efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of border procedures (ref.). The SII came about as a result of a large trade imbalance between the two countries in favour of Japan, which, despite many efforts, the United States and Japan had been unable to reduce.
Based on these countries’ experiences, in 1994, the WCO developed a Handbook on TRS, focusing on Customs processes only, with the aim of providing a standardized method. The focus and methodology of the TRS were reviewed in 2001, leading to the development of the “Guide to Measure the Time Required for the Release of Goods.” In 2005, a TRS software was jointly developed by the WCO and the World Bank. The software enables questionnaires to be created and then distributed to all survey participants and, once the responses have been collected and the data inputted, the automatic calculation of the average time, standard deviation and largest deviation in any pre-designed patterns for each step in the process of releasing goods.