Successful conclusion to the 2010 WCO Council Sessions

26 June 2010

Successful conclusion to the 2010 WCO Council Sessions

Brussels, 26 June 2010

Press Release

The 115th/116th Annual Sessions of the World Customs Organization’s Council – the Organization’s highest decision-making body – took place in Brussels from 24 to 26 June under the guidance and direction of Martyn Dunne, current Chairperson of the WCO Council and CEO of New Zealand’s Customs Service, and gave rise to three days of intensive discussions by Directors General of Customs representing the 176 Members of the WCO.

Customs chiefs discussed a number of policy and technical issues dealing with Customs in the 21st Century including globally networked Customs, trade facilitation, security, revenue-related matters, intellectual property rights, and capacity building. They also spent considerable time discussing risk management; a strategic policy that is increasingly being applied by Customs administrations to more efficiently manage global trade both from a security and a facilitation perspective.

Secretary General of the WCO Kunio Mikuriya said, “All aspects of Customs’ operating environment has an element of risk, so the wide-scale implementation of innovative risk management solutions will enable Customs administrations to cope with high trade volumes at borders whilst ensuring the security of global trade.”

The trade in fake medicines also took centre stage when former French President Jacques Chirac applauded Customs’ efforts to combat this heinous trade during his address to the Council. His speech was followed by a ceremony during which the WCO Secretary General signed the Cotonou Declaration as a symbolic gesture of the Customs community’s commitment to stopping the trade in fake medicines as part of a united front. The Declaration forms the basis of the Chirac Foundation’s initiative to ensure access to safe medicine in Africa. This special event was attended by Didier Reynders, Belgium’s Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, who echoed President Chirac’s sentiments.

Mexico was awarded the 2010 WCO Yolanda Benitez Trophy for demonstrating keen commitment to combating counterfeiting and piracy, while the WCO Photographic Competition was won by France for its winning photo showing Customs in action.

Being the WCO’s Year of the Customs-Business Partnership, the Organization took time to acknowledge the contribution of the private sector to the work of Customs by signing renewed Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations, the Global Express Association, the International Federation of Customs Brokers Associations and The International Air Cargo Association.

Secretary General Mikuriya also took the opportunity to present a special gift to John Raven, representative of TIACA and a former Director General of the International ExpressCarriers Conference (now the Global Express Association), for his long-term commitment to the international Customs and trade community for more than 60 years. Mr. Mikuriya referred to John Raven’s great insight and ability to understand complex issues, and the respect he generates for his knowledge, his determination, his focused approach, and his great sense of humour. The Council gave Mr. Raven a standing ovation.

As the Customs-Trade partnership is a priority activity, the WCO and its Members are committed to continuing their efforts to reinforce the partnership between Customs and business both nationally and internationally.

The WCO’s regional network was expanded with the signing of MOUs between the Organization and the Republic of Congo, the Republic of Korea and the Republic of Ukraine which establish Regional Training Centres (RTC) in these countries. These RTC’s will serve as centres of excellence in these regions.

MOU’s were also signed between the WCO and the African Union Commission to strengthen cooperation with a view to promoting international trade and with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to ensure enhanced cooperation and coordination in managing disaster relief.

Council delegates also witnessed the signing of Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRA) – which form an integral part of the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards to secure and facilitate global trade – between Canada and Japan, Canada and Korea, Korea and Singapore, Canada and Singapore, and Korea and the United States respectively. EU Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta who attended the ceremony emphasized the importance of MRA’s to the AEO concept, and was supportive of the WCO’s efforts to secure the international trade supply chain while facilitating the free flow of legitimate goods.

This ceremony was followed by the deposit by the Philippines and Kenya of their instruments of accession to the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention, making them the 70th and 71st Contracting Parties to this key instrument that promotes trade facilitation and Customs modernization. Liberia also deposited its instrument of accession to the WCO Harmonized System Convention, becoming the 138th Contracting Party to one of the Organization’s most successful global instruments.

Tripartite agreements were also signed in the margins of the sessions between the WCO and Lesotho/South Africa, Mauritius/South Africa, Ethiopia/Israel and Mauritius/Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. These agreements promote the implementation of WCO standards whilst encouraging Members to share their knowledge and skills with one another in the spirit of building sustainable capacity in Customs.

At the end of its sessions, the Council elected two new Directors who will join the Secretariat in January 2011: Zhu Gaozhang from China will head the Compliance and Facilitation Directorate and Erich Kieck from South Africa will head the Capacity Building Directorate.

“I am pleased that the 2010 Council sessions have concluded successfully and I am equally pleased that Directors General of Customs have provided a very clear road map for the Organization in the months ahead,” said Secretary General Mikuriya. “The Secretariat will now adjust its priorities and activities to meet the expectations of its Members,” Mr. Mikuriya added.

The WCO Council will next meet in June 2011.