WCO's response to COVID-19 presented to the EU Council Customs Cooperation Working Party

30 March 2021

On 23 March 2021, WCO Deputy Secretary General Mr. Ricardo Treviño Chapa attended a meeting of the European Union (EU) Council Customs Cooperation Working Party (CCWP) under the Portuguese Presidency. The CCWP focuses on operational cooperation among national Customs administrations within the EU with a view to increasing their enforcement capabilities.

On this occasion, Mr. Ricardo Treviño Chapa gave a keynote presentation on the WCO’s approach regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Noting that the spread of the disease had had unintended impacts on borders and thereby on trade, transport and travel, he explained the four axes of Customs’ response to this pandemic, namely: i) facilitation of the cross-border movement of relief, essential and medical supplies; ii) support to the economy and the supply chain continuity; iii) protecting Customs staff; and iv) protecting society from counterfeit and sub-standard medical products.

Deputy Secretary General Treviño Chapa went on to describe the concrete actions taken by the WCO, such as the creation of a dedicated section on the WCO Website including all the relevant instruments, tools and guidance, the development of a WCO COVID-19 Action Plan stemming from the Resolution endorsed by the WCO Council to facilitate the cross-border movement of situationally critical medicines and vaccines, and the creation of a Passenger Facilitation and Control Working Group, which will meet for the first time on 8 April 2021. The publication of a Secretariat Note and of the Harmonized System reference codes for vaccines were also highlighted.

In addition, the WCO Deputy Secretary General mentioned that the success of Operation STOP had led to a decision to launch Operation STOP II to protect the public against counterfeit/illicit medicines and other sub-standard medical supplies and equipment linked to COVID-19. Furthermore, a global webinar series with pharmaceutical companies is currently ongoing, to improve Customs' awareness in relation to COVID-19 vaccines and help them fight against illicit trafficking.

He concluded his presentation by referring to the Information & Intelligence Centre (I2C) COVID-19 Activities, providing daily open-source news updates on COVID-19 issues, and by thanking the CCWP and the Portuguese Presidency for their continued efforts in Customs matters.