At the invitation of Mr. Visvanath Das, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority (FRCA) and Vice-Chair of the WCO Asia/Pacific region, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya attended the 18th Regional Heads of Customs Administrations Meeting in Suva, Fiji, from 14 to 16 March 2017. The meeting took place in the Great Council of the Chiefs (GCC) Complex, a building of major significance to the people of Fiji. Seventy-eight representatives from 24 Members in the region attended the three-day meeting.
The Meeting was chaired by Mr. Das and was officially launched by Mr. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Fiji’s Attorney-General and Minister for Economy. Welcoming the delegates, the Minister spoke about the necessity to adopt international standards and to share best practices in order to ensure certainty in international trade and to protect borders. He stated that international cooperation and connectivity were essential elements in the fight against criminal activities and that Members in the region must be aware of and optimally exploit the benefits of digital technology.
Delegates from the region were briefed by Secretary General Mikuriya on the progress that had been made on key topics since the WCO’s July Council and December Policy Commission sessions. He emphasized five main priorities: the important role of Customs in security and the fight against terrorism; the entry into force of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and the opportunities and challenges it poses for Customs; e-commerce and its impact on cross-border transactions from both an economic and security perspective; Customs/tax cooperation; and the role of Customs in the fight against illicit financial flows – an area in which the expertise of the WCO and its Members had been recognized by the G20 – and the opportunities presented by using digital technologies and data analysis capabilities.
The Secretary General was also interested in hearing from regional Members about their priorities. He welcomed the initiatives in the region that embraced the Oceania Customs Organisation (OCO) and that included it in the WCO’s activities, while looking forward to increased cooperation with the OCO.
The delegates agreed on a Regional Strategic Plan and discussed several topics including the measures to counter tobacco smuggling, private sector involvement, including the possibility of back-to-back engagement with them at next year's regional meeting, and governance issues. The meeting also considered reports from the Vice-Chair, the Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB), the Regional Training Centre (RTC) and the Regional Intelligence Liaison Office (RILO).
Secretary General Mikuriya and the delegates expressed their appreciation for the warm welcome they had received and for the arrangements that had been made to ensure a successful meeting, with a particular emphasis on Fiji’s traditional welcoming ceremony.