The World Customs Organization (WCO) Council, the highest decision-making body in the WCO, held its Annual Council Session in Brussels, Belgium from June 28 to June 30. The Annual Council Session is an opportunity for WCO member states to gather and discuss priority issues facing Customs Administrations worldwide. CT Strategies was fortunate to be able to attend the Private Sector Consultative Working Group meetings.
Discussed Priority Areas
The Council Session had focused discussions on six priority areas, including: Trade Facilitation with focus on the WCO Mercator Programme; E-Commerce challenges to Customs Administrations; Security; Illicit Financial Flows; Customs-Tax cooperation; and Performance Measurement.
E-Commerce and Trade Facilitation
The WCO recognizes the rising volume of e-commerce transactions as challenging Customs administrations in the following ways:
- Ensuring speedy and efficient clearance of packages at the border as volumes increase.
- Managing the transition from few large/bulk shipments to large low-value and small shipments.
- Managing risks resulting from reduced knowledge on small shipments
- Ensuring data quality on small shipments
- Determining processes, procedures, and roles for all stakeholders in an e-commerce transaction.
To alleviate these challenges, the 2018 WCO Annual Council Session resolved to adopt the Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce. The framework, which was finalized in April of this year, is meant to be a comprehensive tool that Customs Administrations can leverage when developing their own e-commerce strategic and operational frameworks.
The WCO also discussed their Mercator Programme, which launched in June of 2014 and is meant to help Customs Administrations implement the requirements of the Trade Facilitation Agreement ratified by the World Trade Organization. Under the Mercator Programme, Customs Administrations are provided tailored forums and tools to help create Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) programs, reduce clearance times, coordinate border management across government agencies and with international partners, and develop single window processing systems.
The Council also agreed to set up a Working Group on a Comprehensive Review of the International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedure (Revised Kyoto Convention).
The council agreed that security initiatives taken by the WCO must be regional in approach, as opposed to global. Currently, the WCO has its Security Programme, which assists Customs Administrations enhance their border security operations and their capacity to deal with national security threats. The programme aims to provide Customs Administrations with guidance on: Policy Setting and Foresight; Good Practices on Customs controls in relation to Security; Coordination of Security related Customs law enforcement programmes and operations; International cooperation; and Technology and Technical Assistance and Capacity Building.
Conclusion of Session
The council session ended with the members acknowledging the importance of capacity building, research, and intelligence sharing between Customs administrations. Additionally, delegates at the sessions witnessed Vanuatu deposit its instrument of accession to the RKC, which made them officially the 115th Contracting Party to the Convention. Finally, a few Memorandums of Understanding were signed with the WCO Secretary General, one with Korea Customs on establishing a WCO Regional Customs Laboratory, one with Hungary Customs on establishing a Regional Dog Training center, and another with Tunisia Customs on establishing a WCO Regional Training Center.