WCO participates in Global Illicit Trade Summit organized by The Economist

22 February 2017

On 21 February 2017, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya participated in the Global Illicit Trade Summit, an event organized in Brussels, Belgium, by The Economist, which brought together more than 100 policymakers, regulators, government officials, lawyers, academics, researchers and brand owners.

Mr. Jean Jambon, the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Security and Internal affairs, delivered a keynote address on combating the underground economy in the 21st century. He particularly highlighted the efforts made by Belgian law enforcement agencies in countering illicit trade and maintaining security. In addition, he described the challenging situation Belgium faces – a situation which became apparent after the 2016 terrorist attacks – and the ways in which the government is tackling it.

The WCO Secretary General opened the first panel session, which touched on reducing the appeal of illicit trade, by explaining the different types of illicit trade as well as emerging and evolving threats, such as those linked to the development of e-commerce and the challenges it poses in terms of controlling a growing amount of small packages and parcels, or those linked to free trade zones (FTZs) when they are located outside Customs controls. He also highlighted the work of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on measuring the impact of counterfeiting on the economy, and the cooperation between the WCO and the OECD in this area.

The particular role played by the private sector, given its knowledge of supply chains and the data that it holds, was brought up during the discussions on how to counter illicit trade in practice, and more especially on how to improve risk management. In addition, the role of other agencies and actors, including prosecutors and judges, was also emphasized, as stopping goods at the border is only the start of a process which should aim at dismantling illicit networks and arresting criminals.

Other panelists included: Mr. Rolf Alter, Director for Public Governance and Territorial Development at the OECD; Mr. Antonis Kastrissianakis, Director for Security, Safety, Trade Facilitation, Rules of Origin and International Cooperation at the European Commission’s Directorate General on Taxation and Customs Union (TAXUD); and Ms. Monica Ramirez Gil, Global Director of Regulatory and Public Policy Affairs at AB InBev.

During the discussion, other speakers highlighted the critical role Customs authorities play in countering illicit trade, and more specifically when it comes to enforcing intellectual property rights, and concluded that adopting a coordinated approach between enforcement agencies is essential in tackling this problem.

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