WCO Permanent Technical Committee: the past 60 years and its future role

25 March 2013

The WCO's Permanent Technical Committee (PTC), in its 60th year of existence, held its 199th/200th Sessions in Brussels from 18 to 22 March 2013. More than 100 high level delegates, representing WCO Members and observers from international organizations and the private sector, gathered to discuss strategic and technical Customs matters.

To commemorate the occasion, this longest standing WCO Committee held a panel discussion about its work and accomplishments over the past 60 years, and more importantly, about its future role in a rapidly changing world, including an increasingly complex trade and passenger environment.

In his introductory remarks, the Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya, reminded delegates of the PTC’s importance to the WCO and the need for innovative and new approaches to keep the Organization vibrant and relevant.

The WCO Policy Commission and Council had launched many initiatives, such as the revision of the Kyoto Convention on the simplification and harmonization of Customs procedures and the Customs in the 21st Century vision, to meet the considerable and at times conflicting demands arising from the globalization of trade. Customs administrations around the world depend on the PTC to deliver relevant tools and instruments in key Customs areas that can be implemented in practice.

Under the inspiring leadership of Mike Weeding (HM Revenue and Customs in the United Kingdom), the panellists, Rachel Auclair (Canada Border Services Agency), Andrea Canonica (General Directorate for Customs in Switzerland) and Coffet Lebepe (South African Revenue Service), engaged PTC delegates on a number of key issues.

They agreed that the role of Customs is becoming more complex and that there is a need for increased collaboration between Customs administrations, with other government agencies and with the trade. Producing standards is just one part of the equation, however implementation of these standards is necessary to make full use of the potential of standards that are applied globally.

The development of new technologies, the rise of intellectual property right infringements, the strategic review of the Harmonized System, the growth of e-commerce, ever changing supply chains, the importance of exports for economic growth and the need for appropriate compliance models to reflect a changing Customs environment, need to be addressed by the PTC on an on-going basis.

Delegates agreed that the PTC needs to meet these challenges and continue to play the important strategic and technical role that it has played over the past 60 years. Enhancing growth and development through trade facilitation and border security will remain a guiding principle for the WCO.

After the panel discussion, the PTC discussed several strategically important issues, such as coordinated border management, the Economic Competiveness Package, information management and data quality, the Globally Networked Customs concept, the World Trade Organization’s trade facilitation negotiations and its impact on Customs worldwide, air cargo security and natural disaster relief.

The Chairperson of the PTC, François Abouzi from Togo Customs, kindly hosted a buffet dinner accompanied by Togolese music and dancing in cooperation with the Embassy of Togo in Belgium, in order to celebrate the 200th session of the PTC and 40 years of the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention.