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Briefing Session at WCO headquarters

14 enero 2009

Briefing Session at WCO headquarters

9 January 2009

New Year Speech by Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General

Your Excellencies the Ambassadors, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Good morning and a Happy New Year. I wish you good health and happiness for the year 2009.

Since this is the beginning of my mandate as Secretary General, I should like to take this opportunity to share my vision for this organization with you. My leadership will be based on two main pillars covering all aspects within the customs domain, namely, greater responsiveness to the needs of WCO members and enhanced cooperation with our international partners from both the public and private sectors.

Based on the first pillar of Members’ needs, I will ensure that this organization remains agile to world events in close cooperation with the Chair and Vice Chairs of the WCO. From this angle, the year 2008 witnessed the harsh financial crisis that is beginning to affect international trade and customs operations. Fortunately global leaders seem to have learned the lessons from History and have called for cooperation in resisting to protectionist policy, confirmed by the statement of the G20 meeting last November.

In response, the WCO Policy Commission which met in Buenos Aires last month issued a communiqué that urges the customs community to join the global effort to sustain confidence in the global trading system. The customs community is resolved to take joint action in reducing administrative burdens on legitimate trade, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, and to support the early completion of the WTO Doha negotiations.

In more detail, customs measures supporting security, safety and revenue collection should not be used as new barriers or generate additional delays. The use of risk management supported by customs-to-business partnerships is a key element in this regard. Believing this principle, the WCO will continue its policy of constructive engagement with the US Congress to convince its members to review their legislation on 100% scanning. We will instead promote a risk management based approach, including the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) system as well as mutual recognition arrangements that will enable customs to act as a global network.

Another concern is revenue security in developing countries at a time of falling revenue, which is threatened by the risk of growing smuggling and counterfeiting. In response, the WCO will consolidate a package of instruments based on risk management, audit-based control and the use of technology, and will provide technical assistance where necessary.

Based on the second pillar of cooperation with our partners, the WCO will assume the role of a catalyst or multiplier by working in alliance with other global and regional players. The WCO Columbus programme, the Organization’s vehicle for building capacity in customs globally, will therefore enhance collaboration with donors and business in its assistance in customs reform. This will entail improved sharing of information and the implementation of WCO instruments and programmes.

Furthermore, with emerging regional integration, it has also become vital to find synergy with the work of regional organizations. In response, WCO capacity building will put more emphasis on supporting the regional approach, led by Vice Chairs, Regional Offices for Capacity Building (ROCB) and other regional structures.

Cooperation is also needed with other border agencies and business to reduce the delay at border crossings, as often evidenced by the outcome of WCO time release studies. The Policy Commission in December recommended that the WCO start a dialogue with these agencies at the international level. The current WCO work on the Data Model and the Single Window is also of great relevance in furthering cooperation.

Likewise, strengthened cooperation with other ministries and agencies will enable customs to discharge multiple functions when responding to the divergent needs of society. One such example would be protection of the environment which is now placed high on the international agenda. This year the WCO will celebrate its international customs day on 26 January with the theme “Customs and the environment: protecting our natural heritage”, in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Protection of the environment is often regarded as a policy matter of other ministries, but the customs community has the effective means to contribute to this increasingly important policy objective. In fact, many customs administrations have already started undertaking a series of joint operations, using the Customs Enforcement Network (CEN) and the WCO’s Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILO). These operations include the protection of society from the illicit trade in hazardous waste and endangered species.

I have so far talked about the two pillars to reinvigorate the WCO, which is underpinned by a number of core values. Good governance practice with transparency and openness is a cornerstone to increase the participation of members. As one practical measure, I have started to gradually introduce Spanish and other languages used in international trade in WCO meetings. The summary outcome from the December Policy Commission has been translated into Arabic, Russian and Spanish and will be sent to the administrations concerned. A Portuguese translation will also be ready shortly. In this connection, I would like to ask ambassadors and embassies in Brussels to support better communication between customs administrations in their country and the WCO Secretariat. The active pursuit of knowledge is another keystone which is vital in creating innovative instruments and research-based solutions. In this connection, I will encourage the Organization’s technical committees to make the best use of its expertise by re-establishing a linkage with the strategic visions embodied in the WCO “Customs in the 21st Century” policy document. In the more specific area of human resource development, we will establish a Capacity Building Committee to promote leadership and professionalism in the customs culture.

Ladies and Gentlemen, these are our first steps as we embark on a new road in a new year. Finally, I will work enthusiastically with my team to realize tangible results that will enhance the reputation of the WCO and benefit all customs and trade-role players. In this regard, I am convinced that I can rely on your full support and cooperation.

Thank you very much for your attention.