Customs plays a key role in mitigating the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring the efficient and expeditious flow off essential goods such as medical equipment and food supplies across the border. On April 27, the International Chamber of Commerce and the World Customs Organization issued a joint statement calling for “a coordinated Customs response to the COVID-19 crisis, including through active participation in multilateral efforts and an open dialogue with neighboring countries.” This coordinated response should be achieved through international and interagency cooperation in addition to partnerships between the public and private sector and international organizations.
WCO offers various resources to help nations work together to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, including a document highlighting WCO member best practices. The aims of these practices are twofold: firstly, they protect staff, consumers, and society at large, and limit the spread of the virus. Secondly, they ensure the facilitation and cross-border movement of essential supplies, support the economy, and sustain supply chain continuity. Some of the key best practices include:
- Coordination and cooperation with other government agencies to ensure expedited clearance and prioritization of essential goods
- Introduce tax relief measures, penalty waivers, and priority lanes for freight transport
- Increase the usage of non-intrusive inspection equipment to keep physical inspections at a necessary minimum
- Ensure the provision of adequate personal protective equipment to staff, apply social distancing measures, and encourage the usage of electronic services
- Cooperate with sanitary control authorities, combat the entry of counterfeited medical supplies, and expand the tax-free use of undenatured alcohol for the purpose of disinfectants production