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Customs set to put squeeze on smugglers
Premier Zhu Rongji urged customs authorities to maintain "high pressure" in fighting against smuggling and to use information technology to improve working efficiency.
Zhu also urged them to strengthen tariff-collection work to improve the country's financial revenue stream.
The premier made the remarks while making an inspection tour of the General Administration of Customs over the weekend. Senior government officials including Vice-Premier Li Lanqing and State Councillors Luo Gan and Wu Yi joined Zhu in the inspections.
Starting this year, China reduced the customs tariff rate by a large margin as a result of its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The reduction poses a severe challenge to China, according to Zhu. He urged customs to co-operate with the taxation and industry and commerce authorities to stop smuggling and tax-fraud activities.
According to Zhu, fighting smuggling has become essential for the country, which is confronted with a slowing revenue increase this year, despite a good overall economic situation so far.
After China's accession to the WTO, smuggling activities, instead of declining, have become more covert.
Statistics from the General Administration of Customs, which were published at the beginning of June, indicate that Chinese customs had discovered 12,246 instances of smuggling since May last year, with a total value of 6.8 billion yuan (US$821.3 million).
"Customs should enhance its co-operation with other related administrative departments like industry and commerce and taxation, and launch new rounds of comprehensive and stern cracking down on smuggling," said Zhu.
With today's smuggling becoming more covert and sly, Zhu highlighted the importance of an informatized customs, saying it should realize fast and smooth information sharing among the administrative departments involved.
Although customs has made positive progress in informatization, it is still in great need of continuously improving technology to effectively fight smuggling, he said.
But the fight against smuggling should not affect another major mission of Chinese customs: improving efficiency.
To cope better with the increased import and export business since China's WTO membership, Chinese customs is striving for high efficiency and better convenience for such enterprises by staging some reforms.
For example, it no longer demands all entry or exit procedures take place only at the ports. Instead, it has started to accept and process examination and declaration requests before the goods actually arrive at the ports.
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