WCO support mission for the Europe Region on E-Commerce and Digital Customs

02 December 2016

The World Customs Organization (WCO) with the support of the Azerbaijan State Customs Committee, Korean Customs Cooperation Fund (CCF Korea) and the WCO Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB) for Europe, organized a Regional Workshop on E-Commerce and Digital Customs for the Europe Region from 28 November to 1 December 2016 in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Twenty-three middle ranking Customs officers from 18 countries of the Region (Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Lithuania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan) participated in the Workshop.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Rza Hasanaliyev Jahangir, Deputy Chairman of the Azerbaijan State Customs Committee highlighted the significance of growing cross-border e-commerce and the need for Customs administrations to adequately prepare to address issues stemming therefrom through the exchange of views and information. In the same vein, he noted the importance of the use of modern technologies in the Customs environment and how Azerbaijan Customs had implemented several electronic services to improve its business processes.

The experts from the WCO and Korea Customs Service (KCS) provided detailed information and explanations on international and regional developments within the Europe region, including opportunities, challenges and potential solutions in the area of cross-border e-commerce and Digital Customs, and presented related WCO tools and instruments, country examples, case studies and the WCO’s ongoing and future envisaged work.

The representatives from the Express Industry (DHL) and the Post (AzerPost) too shared their perspective, in particular how they were adapting to the growing e-commerce environment. Several opportunities in terms of leveraging respective control and compliance mechanisms of express service providers and postal operators in improving compliance and strengthening risk management together with related working experiences were discussed.

In a wide-ranging discussion, participants shared their national experiences and initiatives concerning effective risk management and efficient revenue collection on low-value shipments. The participants also shared respective practical experiences/best practices relating to the implementation various ICT solutions.

Through group exercises, the participants explored different scenarios including the pros and cons of establishing a high/low threshold for low-value consignments noting that there was no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach in terms of ‘de minimis’ regime. Additionally, the accession/ratification and the harmonized implementation of the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC), the WCO Immediate Release Guidelines, and the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA) were discussed in the context of further supporting e-commerce flows.

Being the first of its kind in the Region, the Workshop was very well received by participants and raised a lot of interest and robust discussions. Participants acquired an enhanced understanding of issues relating to cross-border commerce and Digital Customs as well as relevant WCO instruments and tools in terms of their effective and harmonized implementation at the national/regional level. Furthermore, they learned how the different WCO instruments and tools could support the facilitation of low-value shipments whilst ensuring effective revenue collection and supply chain security.

The workshop also enabled the participants in developing a broad strategy as a potential way forward, which inter alia included adoption of a risk-based approach based on advance electronic data (from e-commerce stakeholders such as Posts, express service providers, e-platforms/marketplaces ); the implementation/enhancement of ICT in close coordination with other government agencies and private sector stakeholders leading to a paperless single window environment; and the development of IT and data analytics capabilities including internet monitoring. In the postal context, some participants shared their ongoing efforts with respective postal operators which included the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and the implementation of integrated or interfaced postal-Customs systems.

Participants also had an opportunity to visit the Azerbaijan Customs Targeting Center to gain first-hand practical knowledge of ‘Unified Automated Information System’ and to observe the live operations of border management and Customs clearance processes through the use of IT including GPS enabled e-seals for tracking and targeting of consignments.

Additionally, the Workshop provided participants with a good opportunity to establish networks with other Customs administration of the Region through an enhanced understanding of issues of mutual interest at the regional level.