The Role of Customs Authorities
Some time ago, the primary goal of customs, regardless of the country, was to collect revenue for the government. However, with the industrialization of countries and increased competition from global markets, other goals have been added:
- Protection of industries in each country. This protection has been achieved through the addition of tariff and non-tariff barriers such as quotas, permits and various regulations; through the application of Canada’s trade policies including, among other things, the collection of duties and trade data. Canada’s trade policies are intended to increase the competitiveness of Canadian industries in global markets by introducing legislation to reduce or eliminate tariffs.
- Border protection. Customs must enforce the many laws that govern the arrival of goods and travellers and, where applicable, ensure that the requirements of other government departments are met with respect to the importation of certain goods. These measures are meant to protect the environment, health and safety of Canadians.
The collection of duties remains, but is no longer as important a function as in the past, due to the reduction or, in some cases, the elimination of tariffs. These reductions are often the result of trade agreements between Canada and other countries or special measures under Canadian law.
Rates may go down or disappear, but the determination to protect national interests remains. This is often seen in trade disputes between member countries of the World Trade Organization over agriculture or the difficulties faced between Canada and the United States in the interpretation of some of the North American Free Trade Agreement’s terms. Removing non-tariff barriers seems more difficult than removing tariffs.
Although the collection of duties has become a secondary function, this aspect of customs remains, nevertheless, very important. We have to remember that customs is a government service that continues to enforce the laws and impose the applicable sanctions and penalties. Errors or omissions can be very costly!
In summary, the presence of customs at the border helps to:
- Control the illegal entry of goods into Canada
- Prohibit the entry of goods that may endanger our health, environment or agriculture, and
- Improve our competitiveness by managing trade agreements and import and export policies