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Duties gripe

Carol-Ann Tudor

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by Carol-Ann TudorHigher duties on imports, plus certain fines and fees at the Bridgetown Port, could end up in bigger bills for shoppers.
That fear has been expressed by the president of the Customs Brokers Association, Louis Forde, who has called for an independent tribunal to resolve problems that arise when goods are reclassified and attract higher duties.
Forde said that daily there were a number of fines, delays and demurrage fees which consumers would see at checkout counters.
He said an independent tribunal would have been able to resolve the holding up by Customs of  2 400 cases of a popular fruit flavoured concentrated juice used by hotels and restaurants.The problem has arisen because duties on the juice are being increased from 20 per cent to 40 per cent, according to sources.When contacted by the SATURDAY?SUN, Comptroller of Customs Frank Holder said he had received no concerns from the Customs Brokers’ Association and could not respond. He also said he could not give any comment on whether or not the juice concerned would be reclassified.
However, Forde said: “The WTO rules state that there should be an independent body to deal with matters such as these, but as it stands, the reclassification committee is within Customs. A stop has to be put to this unilateral changing of items because a change of classification most of the time leads to more duties being paid.” 
Forde said that recently a meeting was held with Minister of Consumer Affairs Haynesley Benn in an effort to bring certain problems to his attention.
Among the problems they highlighted were fines for nominal changes, and problems with a new tariff system that had not been rectified in the computer section, which was understaffed, causing delays.
Please see also today’s SATURDAY SUN Page 16.