The e-CertNL system

Download this video
Written text

VOICE-OVER: With a value of around 75 billion euros the agricultural sector accounts for about 17 per cent of goods exported by the Netherlands.

This makes us the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products after the United States.

Well-known products are flowers and plants, vegetables and fruit, dairy, fish, meat and cattle feed. (Pigs in a barn.)

Yet the Netherlands is also leading the way on the high-tech side of agro products, like in the seed and seed processing sectors. The largest proportion of our exports are to neighbouring countries with which European agreements have been made, regarding quality and safety.
Shipments to countries outside the EU require various documents. Documents that provide authorities in the importing countries with assurances about quality, origins and safety. One of the documents required is an export certificate.

FREEK VAN ZOEREN (SPEAKS DUTCH): If a country sets certain requirements, then we, as a competent authority, must declare that the shipment arriving meets the requirements set by the applicable country.

JAN MEIJER (SPEAKS DUTCH): It’s understandable that importing countries are allowed to set requirements, so they can safeguard the health of their own citizens, animals and plants.

BEN ENSINK (SPEAKS DUTCH): Completing an administrative process by issuing a certificate and handing it over to the country of destination is sufficient for some countries.
Other countries also demand a physical inspection of the products and then an inspector under the supervision of the competent authority must attend and check the shipment for all sorts of insects, diseases and such like.

JOOST VAN WIJK (SPEAKS DUTCH): At the moment non-EU countries still receive paper certificates with a stamp and signature. We are currently working on a process whereby certificates are converted into electronic reports.

VOICE-OVER: The conversion from paper to electronic certificates was initiated in 2005 with the CLIENT program.

MEIJER (SPEAKS DUTCH): We actually wanted to achieve two goals simultaneously, in conjunction with each other. Therein providing a reduction in the corporate burden and at the same time optimising the quality of the inspection process.
Thus two things in conjunction.

VOICE-OVER: And there are more advantages to an electronic version of the export certificate. A number of sectors, such as cut flowers or vegetables and fruit, have to deal with short turnarounds. It often only takes a few hours from order to transport. The less time taken up with documents and stamps, the better.

There are fewer chances for mistakes since the certificates can be requested directly from the company’s operation system and data only has to be entered once.

PETER VERBAAS (SPEAKS DUTCH): Thus the uniformity of the documents to non-EU countries has increased enormously, the rate of errors is almost zero.

BEREND MEIJERINK (SPEAKS DUTCH): And that means nowadays it takes barely a minute, as it were, to submit an application.

VOICE-OVER: There is also less risk of fraud because the documents aren’t sent with the shipment but the information is sent directly from authority to authority.

And finally, great benefits could also be gained by using the various quality systems and checks that have already been carried out by the companies and sector institutes. After all, no additional inspections are neededif a requirement has already been met.

Thus, for example, the identification and registration system was linked, so that when exporting live cattle the cattle passports no longer need to be inspected. The dairy sector has also made its database of existing quality checks available to CLIENT.

JAN MAARTEN VRIJ (SPEAKS DUTCH): We already had those assurances from the Netherlands controlling authority for dairy products. Which is a quality-controlling organisation, an independent organisation that has existed in the dairy sector for years and that provides those assurances. They’re in a database. That database is part of CLIENT Export. And with every request for an export certificate the database is consulted to see if the party complies with all of the requirements.

MEIJER (SPEAKS DUTCH): Hence the large-scale operation. We are dealing with many sectors, all with different products and different requirements from many countries and involving large stakeholders. We don’t want to take any chances, so we’ve done it step by step, sector by sector.

VOICE-OVER: Furthermore, direct collaboration was sought with partners like the European Union, the World Customs Organization and the United Nations.

BENNO SLOT (SPEAKS DUTCH): In the beginning the Netherlands put a lot of effort into the United Nations work group to standardise the reports and exchange mechanism. That has been completed.

VOICE-OVER: An information analysis was undertaken to achieve a system that is partly generic but also considers sector-specific requirements. The operating processes of six sectors were examined and they provided an overview of the overlaps and differences between the sectors.

PATRICK LAENEN (SPEAKS DUTCH): The advantage is that you get a well-thought-out and focused approach. The business processes can be redesigned without being obstructed by working methods developed in the past and working methods that were often based on paper.

VOICE-OVER: An analysis was also made of all the data that needs to be provided to the various authorities during the export process. Using clever combinations, the amount of data that companies need to collate could be drastically reduced.

FREDERIK HEIJINK (SPEAKS DUTCH): This work group met for a few months and they were able to reduce the total data set from 1,200 elements to 200. That is a considerable gain for corporations and an enormous simplification in data provisioning.

VOICE-OVER: Of course, at the same time as the development of the Dutch part of CLIENT Export they collaborated with other countries, so they would be able to receive and process the certificates.

NICO HORN (SPEAKS DUTCH): It’s more important to have global harmonisationthan that our particular working methods are followed.

VOICE-OVER: By now the programme is used in most sectors and the number of countries participating in electronic exchanges has greatly increased. If this trend continues, will we soon be able to provide paperless certificates?

SLOT (SPEAKS DUTCH): It is more complicated than it seems. You could say: Get rid of the paper and then you are paperless. But you need to agree on what will replace it. And, in particular, the irrefutability of the electronic information is in itself an important item. So we have included a signed report whereby an electronic signature directly from the competent authority confirms without a doubt that the information originates from us.

VOICE-OVER: Finally, delivering and processing export data also offers further perspectives for integrating government service provisions.

VRIJ (SPEAKS DUTCH): For example, at the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce more or less the same data has to be entered for a Certificate of Origin as for a Veterinary Certificate. So why can’t we do that in one go? An exporter also has to file an export declaration with customs and has to enter the same data, and more. So there should eventually be a solution where identical data only has to be entered once there as well.

SLOT (SPEAKS DUTCH): That is exactly the point we’re currently at. We are following two lines of future developments. The paperless route internationally and for the national system the maximum reuse of the available information.

VERBAAS (SPEAKS DUTCH): We fully believe that CLIENT Export is the way ahead. And we’re looking forward to the next step.