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Millions Lost From Tajik-Chinese Trade

There is a huge discrepancy in the statistics of Tajikistan and China on trade turnover. Why is this happening? The statistical data of Tajikistan and China on the volume of supplies of Chinese goods and products to our republic in 2022 differ by 2.6 times.

According to the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China , last year the export of Chinese goods to Tajikistan exceeded $2.2 billion, and in accordance with the official statistics of the republic, this figure amounted to only about $842 million.

However, such a huge gap in the statistics of the two countries in terms of mutual trade has been observed since the end of the 2000s , when China gradually became one of the main trading partners of Tajikistan.

So, in 2012, the volume of trade between Tajikistan and China, according to Tajik statistics, amounted to $670 million. According to the PRC customs department, it then reached almost $1.7 billion.

Even with such a possible decrease in the true volume of trade, China, according to the statistics department of Tajikistan, is one of the three main trading partners of the republic (along with Russia and Kazakhstan).

From China, mainly non-food products are delivered to Tajikistan: building materials, machinery and equipment, as well as all kinds of consumer goods, clothes, shoes, furniture, electrical appliances and much more.

The main raw materials exported to China are various minerals, non-ferrous and rare metals (antimony, zinc, lead, non-rolled aluminum and non-rolled aluminum alloys), cotton fiber, raw leather, as well as silk fabrics and raw silk, dried fruits, etc.

The only checkpoint (Kulma-Karasu checkpoint) on the Tajik-Chinese border is located on the eastern outskirts of the Murgab district of GBAO, at an altitude of 4365 meters above sea level.

Most of the trade between Tajikistan and China is carried out in transit through third countries.

The shortest transit routes for cargo transportation between the two countries pass through the territory of Kyrgyzstan. However, this neighbor unilaterally closed its border with Tajikistan after the armed conflict at the end of April 2021.

Different rules of customs accounting?

The leadership of the Customs Service of Tajikistan in previous years recognized the existence of a large discrepancy in the statistics on trade with China and explained this, first of all, by the fact that countries use different methodologies – different customs accounting rules.

The Service argued that the discrepancy with China’s customs statistics exists not only with Tajikistan, but also with other states of the former Soviet Union.

“In the states of the former USSR, a methodology approved by the relevant agreement between these countries is used, while in China a completely different methodology is in force,” the Service said.In addition, the customs department said that all the equipment that is imported by Chinese construction companies for the construction of various facilities in Tajikistan is classified as export in China’s statistics, and is not recorded as import in Tajik statistics.

The Service explained that in Tajikistan such supplies have the status of temporary import, and all goods under this status are not included in the statistics as imports.

In addition, Tajik customs officers even hinted at the overestimation of the true cost of goods by Chinese exporters, arguing that in China there is a certain rule for manufacturers of goods – the state returns VAT on the cost of exported goods to them, and it is “beneficial for them to indicate a high price of goods in documents.”

Now, according to Radio Ozodi, the customs department of Tajikistan believes that the difference in the statistics of trade with China in 2022 was a little more than $15 million.

The first deputy head of the Customs Service, Azim Tursunzoda, said on February 15 that “this figure is accurate and complete.”

“The money was transferred through banks. No one could either import or export, because there was no communication between the countries,” he said.

Alternative explanations

Meanwhile, independent experts attribute the difference in the statistics of the two countries to the fact that part of the cargo at the Tajik border is passed without proper customs clearance.”Insignificant errors in statistics are everywhere, but not such a huge gap. No methodological discrepancies that customs officials talk about can lead to this, there can be either corruption or the passage of goods that belong to privileged people,” he said on condition of anonymity finance specialist.

These assumptions are also confirmed by some drivers who transport goods from China.

According to freight carriers, there are cases of falsification of documents at the Tajik customs border, as well as free passage of individual trucks.

However, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has repeatedly spoken out about corruption among customs officers, which leads to smuggling and budget losses. 

So, in May 2019, at a meeting with employees of the fiscal sector, he accused the leadership of the Customs Service of inaction. According to him, the employees of this Service divided the checkpoint among themselves and control the transportation of goods at their own discretion.

He called the goods smuggling scheme “Tajik nanotechnology” that “eats” the latest technology. The President exposed schemes for smuggling goods through checkpoints.

“There are two ways to smuggle goods. The first, when a car passes, the camera takes pictures. They take off the state numbers and put them on the second and third cars. In fact, 2-3 cars pass, but only one is registered. The second, when the goods arrive at the checkpoint, employees conspire with the owners of the goods, reduce the cost, set prices as they want,” the president explained at the time.

He also noted that in some cases, “one product is indicated in the documents, and completely different in the car.” 

The saddest thing about this whole story, perhaps, is that smuggling, according to Emomali Rahmon, “is carried out with the support of high-ranking customs officials.”

Source : Asia Plus Tj



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