Outcomes of the 2022 WCO Council sessions

25 June 2022

Directors General of the 184 Member Customs administrations of the World Customs Organization (WCO) gathered at the 139th/140th Sessions of the WCO Council, the Organization’s highest decision-making body, held in Brussels, Belgium from 23 to 25 June 2022.

Under the chairmanship of Mr. A. Al Khalifa, President of Customs Affairs in Bahrain, the Council took stock of the work carried out by the WCO Members and the Secretariat, since the last Council session held in a virtual format in June 2021. Delegates also discussed and decided on international standards, guidance documents and recommended practices to be developed or adopted during the next financial year, so as to enhance the management of cross-border trade.

Members focused their discussions on areas such as Capacity Building, Rules of Origin, Valuation, Nomenclature and Classification, Compliance and Trade Facilitation, as well as other important governance matters.

The Council noted the update on the implementation of the WCO COVID-19 Action Plan, and endorsed the WCO Strategic Plan 2022-2025, with Technology and Innovation, Green Customs and Governance and Accountability as its focus areas. The Council expressed its support for the WCO’s Green Customs Initiative as a cornerstone of the WCO Strategic Plan for Customs modernization, recognizing the urgent need for Customs to play an active role in addressing environmental concerns. The Council also noted the importance of Customs adapting to fragile contexts at borderlands, and to new working arrangements in a post-pandemic environment. In addition, the Council approved the extension of the mandate of the Working Group on Performance Measurement.

The Council adopted the WCO Data Strategy, recognizing the power of data for strategic planning and intelligence, as well as the latest version of the WCO Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce. The Council went on to approve the Finance Committee’s budgetary recommendations, thus enabling the Secretariat to continue its work in supporting Members.

Today, Directors General of Customs re-elected Mr. Ricardo Treviño Chapa as Deputy Secretary General for a five-year period.

They also re-elected Mr. A. Al Khalifa, President of Customs Affairs in Bahrain, at the post of the Chairperson of the WCO Council and proceeded to confirm a number of important regional representative positions.

In the margins of the Sessions, H.R.H. Princess Astrid of Belgium honoured the delegates with her visit during the meetings to mark the 70th Anniversary of the Organization. She was accompanied with the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, in charge of the Coordination of the Fight against Fraud, Mr. Vincent Van Peteghem, who delivered a speech on the key role played by Customs at borders for trade facilitation and the protection of society. This visit was also marked by the planting of a tree offered by Belgian Customs to symbolize the special links the WCO has developed with Belgium over the years, being the host country. Mr. Kristian Vanderwaeren, Director General of Belgian Customs, also gave a speech at this occasion.

Regarding accessions to WCO instruments, Council delegates witnessed the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Singapore deposit their instruments of accession to the International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures (Revised Kyoto Convention), thus bringing the total number of Contracting Parties to the Convention to 133.

The annual WCO Photo Competition was won by the Customs Administration of Ukraine. The winning photo shows how Customs can work together to mobilize its forces for the smooth delivery of aid, and fulfill its obligations as one of the main actors along the supply chain.

At the conclusion of the Sessions, the Council came together in a message of unity, recognizing the importance of Customs checkpoints which are often the last to close during conflicts and the first to reopen post-conflicts; condemning any acts of aggression on Customs borders that endanger the safety and security of Customs and border officials; urging all Customs administrations to continue facilitating the movement of essential humanitarian goods and pledging to continue enhancing cooperation among the international Customs family.