Decree 360 of 2021 what is new in the new reform to the customs statute?

Abstract: Last April the government issued Decree 360 of 2021, which seeks to clarify concepts previously adopted in the customs statute and facilitate foreign trade operations.

Author: Carlos Méndez (Lawyer of López & James, specialized in Commercial and International Law).

As a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, many economic sectors were affected around the world, businesses were closed and many people and companies went bankrupt. Currently, governments are trying to promote economic reactivation plans with the aim of recovering part of what was lost. In Colombia, since the government is aware of the importance of foreign trade to achieve this objective, it recently implemented a series of modifications and clarifications to its current customs statute, through Decree 360 of 2021.

The main purpose of this new regulation is to speed up the import process and provide facilities to importers, modify the penalties and administrative procedures, as well as make adjustments related to the definitions and clarifications regarding valuation and origin. Regarding the facilities for importers, the Decree seeks to streamline the import process in order to increase the amount of goods entering the country, thus promoting a more agile trade. Likewise, this Decree also seeks to delimit the importer’s obligations for both formal and substantial obligations, with the purpose of providing legal certainty, since in recent years there have been too many individual concepts that generate confusion among Colombian importers.

Regarding the benefits that continue to be granted with the aim of alleviating the losses caused by the pandemic, the Decree allows that for the periods of 2020 and 2021, customs agencies can support at least 50% of their liquid assets for accounting purposes, to return again to 100% in 2022, year in which it is expected that there will be significant progress on the way to return to normality.

In relation to the export and import regimes, for the former it is worth mentioning that the granting of approval to export samples with no commercial value is enabled, as well as the elimination of the USD 5,000 cap for shipments concerning e-commerce exports in the modality of postal traffic and express shipments, a modification that brings the country up to date with current international trends. Regarding imports, the concept of integral analysis is introduced, which will allow an adequate and quick verification of the products or goods arriving to the country against the documents that support such import. This comprehensive analysis will allow a comparison to be made even when there are errors in the description of the products contained in the documents in order to reduce the risk of seizure of the goods as much as possible.

However, although this new decree sets a guideline of where foreign trade operations are heading, it is still true that there are still some issues to be added, which will surely be done with the subsequent regulatory decree that should come out in May and that will complement Decree 360. It is also expected that the Electronic Information Services (SEI) platform, which is intended to digitize foreign trade operations and which has been under development since 2016, will be implemented soon.