26 high-level Customs laboratory staff from 23 countries in the Asia/Pacific region participated in a WCO Regional Seminar on Customs Laboratory and Chemical Analysis from 12 to 14 November 2014 at the Central Customs Laboratory (CCL) in Kashiwa, Japan. The seminar was organized by ROC Bangkok in cooperation with Japan Customs.
The seminar focused on the increased importance of laboratory analysis in a rapid developing Customs environment. While analysis to determine tariff classification and the level of duties and taxes are still of great importance, modern Customs laboratories now also play an important role in the protection of the environment and society and in trade facilitation. The role of Customs laboratories were explained during an on-site-visit to Tokyo Customs, which also included a tour of its local laboratory. During the visit the use of a mobile unit to detect narcotics was also demonstrated. The WCO/Japan Customs Laboratory Programme was also explained and one of the participants in the 2014-Programme informed the seminar about the benefits of the Programme. To conclude this topic, the participants from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Nepal and Vietnam made presentations on the current and envisaged roles of their laboratories.
Participants were informed about WCO tools to improve the tariff classification work and related infrastructure and the comprehensive WCO Laboratory Guide was presented in detail.
Following a panel discussion on the management of Customs laboratories, which included presentations by participants from India, Indonesia, Japan and Thailand, the important topics of technical cooperation and information sharing at regional level were addressed. Participants from Bangladesh, Japan, Tonga and the WCO facilitator made presentations on the current short-comings and needs for more regional capacity building and information sharing.
As a first step to achieve more cooperation and capacity building at regional level, the CCL of Japan now also serves as WCO Regional Customs Laboratory (RCL) for the Asia/Pacific Region in accordance with the Memory of Cooperation signed at the June 2014 Council Sessions. The official opening of the RCL, which was attended by Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya and the Director General of Japan’s Customs and Tariff Bureau, Mr. Yutaka Miyauchi, took place during the seminar (see separate article).
In his closing speech, Mr. Kiyoaki Yamada, Director General of the CCL/RCL, emphasized that laboratories are important in relation to tariff classification, enforcement and protection of environment and people. He noted that the well-functioning of a Customs laboratory relies on many factors, such as budget, equipment and staff. The seminar had provided a good opportunity to gain knowledge and to exchange experience and he invited the participants to make use of the knowledge and to use the network that had been established.