WCO Secretary General addresses EU Customs representatives

10 January 2014

At the invitation of the Greek Presidency of the European Union (EU), the Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya, addressed the EU Customs Union Group (CUG) in Brussels on Friday, 10 January 2014.

Greece, which has responsibility for guiding the EU for a six-month period from 1 January to 30 June 2014, continued the practice of inviting the WCO Secretary General and the Director General of the European Commission's Taxation and Customs Union Directorate (DG TAXUD) to outline their principal objectives for the coming year at the first meeting of the CUG under the Greece’s term at the helm of the EU.

Secretary General Mikuriya began by expressing his appreciation to the Greek Presidency for continuing what is now a tradition of inviting the WCO to outline its work programme for the current year to the CUG. He was particularly pleased to have the opportunity to outline the WCO programme at the commencement of his second term as Secretary General.

The Secretary General stated that the promotion of the efficiency, transparency and effectiveness of the global supply chain would continue to be at the centre of WCO policy. The recent negotiation of an Agreement on Trade Facilitation (ATF) by the World Trade Organization presented an opportunity for the WCO to promote reform and modernization and increase the adoption of WCO instruments and guidelines. The Policy Commission reacted swiftly and positively in issuing the Dublin Declaration upon the adoption of the Agreement.

The WCO had already established contact with the WTO in order to discuss and define its role with regards to the implementation of the ATF. Noting specific reference to the WCO in the agreement the Secretary General highlighted the willingness and capability of the organization to support the approach agreed by the WTO. There is an expectation that the WCO will play a role and he urged delegates present to seek support from their trade ministries.

In recent years, numerous donors have engaged with the WCO seeking guidance in addition to the expertise, experience and knowledge as well as existing instruments and guidelines that the organization has to offer. Based on this experience, and the successful implementation of a wide variety of programmes, the Secretary General was confident of garnering further support from the donor community in the context of the WTO ATF. A working group on the AFT will be held back-to-back with the March Permanent Technical Committee to enable Members to provide input into the process.

The WCO will continue to emphasize the importance of partnership with trade. The participation of Member States in the April Conference on Authorized Economic Operators (AEO) scheduled to take place in Madrid, Spain was encouraged. The development of Customs/Business Standards is considered to be of utmost importance and the Secretary General asked that the Member States submit their best practice guidelines on this topic.

Security of the supply chain is still high on the agenda of the WCO and maintains a high profile. The review of the SAFE standards, including additional clauses for AEOs, is already underway.

Capacity Building, and the benefits which accrue to Members as a result of important Capacity Building initiatives, continues to be of pivotal importance in the WCO strategic planning process. The Secretary General thanked the Commission for its continuous contribution to the WCO’s capacity building effort both financially and by way of human resources. The demand for assistance continues and the WCO hopes to address the most pressing needs of its Members. He asked Member States to continue to make experts available for the delivery of capacity building in view of the extra demands likely as implementation of the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation gains momentum.

In closing the Secretary General announced that the WCO theme for 2014 would be "Communication, sharing information for better cooperation". Communication is a key driver for sustainable Customs reform and modernization, not only ensuring that Customs remains on top of its game but also ensuring that Customs, by sharing best practice, information and experience is in a strong position to meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities presented by the 21st century border and trade environment. It is only by open and transparent information sharing through excellent communication that Customs can achieve their goals.

Secretary General Mikuriya concluded by wishing the Greek Presidency every success and in particular he expressed best wishes to Mr. Emmanuel Kokolokis, the Chairperson of the CUG, in the fulfillment of a demanding role.

The Director General of TAXUD, Mr. Heinz Zourek, expressed his appreciation to the WCO for the excellent cooperation between the two bodies. He noted the successful alignment of work programmes and assured the Secretary General of the full support of the Commission by way of active participation in a wide range of WCO meetings and events.

In particular, the Director General welcomed the Policy Commission Resolution on the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (ATF) adding that it was important to make an early start to preparations in anticipation of ratification of the Agreement. He emphasized that the Revised Kyoto Convention remains the legal basis for a high proportion of the ATF content. He added that EU work towards increasing accession to the RKC across the globe would continue. He welcomed the AEO Conference scheduled for Madrid, Spain in April and looked forward to a tangible outcome from that event. Globally Networked Customs (GNC) is of significant importance to the EU and he looks forward to further progress of this dossier. IPR infringements are also of critical importance to the European Union Member countries, and in this context a major seminar is planned to take place in London in 2014. The EU Commission would continue to strongly support the capacity building work of the WCO and to support the work of the WCO generally.

The Chairperson of the CUG thanked both distinguished speakers for their contributions. He emphasized the importance of active participation by EU Member States in WCO activities in order to ensure that the voices of the EU and its Member States would be heard at this important international forum.

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