WCO Europe Regional Heads of Customs Conference

19 March 2014

At the invitation of Mr. Aydin Aliyev, Chairman of the State Customs Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Vice-Chair for the Europe Region, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya attended the WCO Europe Regional Heads of Customs Conference. The Conference, hosted by the Georgia Revenue Service, was held in Tbilisi, Georgia, on 17 and18 March 2014.

Opening the Conference, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Mr. Irakli Garibashvili, emphasized the important role played by the WCO, the benefits of Customs harmonization, the ongoing alignment of Georgia’s national legislation with that of the EU, and the need for Customs cooperation, trade facilitation and consultation with trade representatives.

Mr. Nodar Khaduri, Georgia’s Minister of Finance, reaffirmed his country’s support for the WCO, adding that Georgia plans to accede to the Revised Kyoto Convention and will draw on other WCO instruments when reviewing its Customs processes. He also emphasized the importance of stakeholder engagement, and of consultations with trade.

WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya updated delegates on recent developments regarding the implementation of the Strategic Plan and activities to support the implementation of the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (ATF). He highlighted the importance of this WTO Agreement, and the outcomes of the December 2013 Policy Commission (Dublin Resolution), adding that there was now an opportunity to garner enhanced recognition and political support for the WCO and for national Customs activities. Customs can play a major role in the implementation of the ATF, and in the National Committees on Trade Facilitation.

Delegates discussed a wide range of topics. The Region invited Ireland to develop a paper as a basis for further consultations, with a view to bringing forward proposals to the Policy Commission on governance issues, including the procedures and process regarding election posts.

The outcomes of the recent Working Group on the Composition of the Finance Committee were discussed, and were agreed in principle.

Delegates were updated on ROCB, RTC, RILO and Regional Dog Training Centre activities. They discussed engagement with the private sector and the expectations from such engagement, reviewed a regional approach to achieving the goals of the Economic Competitiveness Package, and took note of the results of the Regional Conference on National Training Centres. The Heads of Customs also noted the outcomes of the Heads of Customs Investigation and Intelligence Services Meeting, and tasked this group to examine the relationships between eCommerce and fraudulent activity.

Issues such as Coordinated Border Management based on Georgia’s experience and Regional Cooperation were also discussed. The Conference agreed on the nomination of the German dog school as an approved Regional Dog Training Centre.

The Conference elected the European Union as Vice-Chair for the WCO Europe Region with effect from July 2014.

The 2015 WCO Europe Regional Heads of Customs Conference will take place in Poland.

During the Conference, Georgia signed Customs Mutual Administration Agreements with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

The delegates thanked Mr. Aliyev for guiding the Region over the past year as its Vice-Chair, and also expressed their appreciation to the Georgia Revenue Service for the excellent organization of the Conference and the warm welcome and hospitality extended to them.