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First Meeting of the EU Customs Union Group under Latvian Presidency

15 enero 2015

At the invitation of the Latvian Presidency of the European Union (EU), Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya addressed the EU Customs Union Group (CUG) in Brussels on 14 January 2015.

Latvia, which has responsibility for guiding the EU for a six-month period from 1 January to 30 June 2015, continued the practice of inviting the WCO Secretary General and the Director General of the European Commission’s Taxation and Customs Union Directorate (DG TAXUD) to outline their principal objectives for the coming year at the first meeting of the CUG under its Presidency.

Secretary General Mikuriya expressed his appreciation to the Latvian Presidency for giving him the opportunity to present the WCO’s work programme and was pleased to see the synergy between the WCO’s priorities and those of the Latvian Presidency, namely to be competitive, to embrace digitalization and to show engagement in a spirit of sustained work. 

He then explained the WCO’s programme, based on the four pillars of the WCO Strategic Plan. 

Firstly, in the area of trade facilitation and security, which is supported by the Economic Competitiveness Package, the priorities are :

  • Implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) through the development of new tools to ensure its consistent implementation; the hosting of the TFA Working Group; and the rolling out of the Mercator Programme.  In this connection, the United Kingdom had recently pledged significant financial support to the Mercator Programme and, hopefully, this example would be followed by other countries. 
  • Addressing the question of digitalization, including E-commerce and the use of IT to obtain advance information.
  • The SAFE Framework of Standards, the revised version of which would go to the Council in June for adoption and would henceforth incorporate a third pillar on Customs-other government agency cooperation as well as pre-loading air cargo information.   

Secondly, in the area of fair and efficient revenue collection, supported by the Revenue Package, the priorities are :

  • Maintaining the relevance of the Harmonized System (HS), including the Explanatory Notes, and ensuring the implementation of the most up-to date Edition of the HS. 
  • Addressing regional integration, in particular through the collection of best practices in respect of rules of origin. 
  • The exchange of information, especially in relation to the G20/OECD developments in the tax area.  The Customs community should also further pursue and enhance Customs-to-Customs information exchange through the Globally Networked Customs (GNC) initiative.

Thirdly, in the area of protection of society, supported by the Compliance and Enforcement Package, the priorities are :

  • Security, where recent terrorist attacks show the need for Customs to play a role in contributing to the combating of this increasingly global problem, including the active use and sharing of Advance Passenger Information (API) and the Passenger Name Record (PNR) for enhanced passenger control.
  • The use of technology and in this respect the WCO has recently launched “Iris”, a Web trawler of Customs-related information and seizure records; this adds to the WCO’s existing technology platforms.
  • Follow-up to and addressing the consequences of enforcement activities, including post-seizure analysis and cooperation with other law enforcement agencies and countries of origin. 

Fourthly, in the area of institutional and human resource development, supported by the Organizational Development Package, the priorities are :

  • The people who work in Customs and, in this regard, the WCO will continue its human resource development programme, including via the CLIKC platform. 
  • Further development of a pool of experts to deliver capacity building and strengthening of regional infrastructures. 
  • Integrity, with the political impetus coming from the G20.

The Secretary General further explained that, at the recent Policy Commission session in Brazil, the Secretariat had been tasked to develop a performance measurement tool to ensure that Members achieve excellence through the use of WCO tools and programmes.  The WCO has accordingly devised 20 high-level indicators to measure Members’ progress in modernization.  Each high-level indicator will be supported by a maturity model or development guide, indicating the elements that need to be in place as well as the steps to be taken to achieve excellence. 

The Secretary General concluded his presentation by wishing every success to the Latvian Presidency and particularly to Mr. Larijs Martinsons as Chairperson of the CUG.

The Director General of TAXUD, Mr. Heinz Zourek, expressed his appreciation to the WCO for the continued, excellent cooperation between the two bodies.  The ideas and content of the Economic Competitiveness Package and the Revenue Package correspond to the EU’s thinking and he also expressed his full support for the Mercator Programme and emphasized the usefulness of performance measurement.  The EU would continue to place importance on the TFA, GNC, SAFE, IPR and capacity building, among other areas of work.  Mr. Zourek also referred to the challenges of E-commerce and the fight against fraud.  He drew special attention to the work currently being undertaken on the EU Customs Code, particularly its implementing regulations and governance, which would be a high priority for 2015.

The Chairperson thanked both speakers and emphasized the importance of EU Members continuing to be engaged with and to contribute to the WCO.

Photos

  • From left to right: Mr. Larijs Martinsons, the current Chairperson of the CUG, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General, and Mr. Heinz Zourek, Director General of TAXUD

    From left to right: Mr. Larijs Martinsons, the current Chairperson of the CUG, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General, and Mr. Heinz Zourek, Director General of TAXUD

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  • Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya addressed the EU Customs Union Group (CUG) during this first meeting under the Latvian Presidency of the European Union (EU)

    Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya addressed the EU Customs Union Group (CUG) during this first meeting under the Latvian Presidency of the European Union (EU)

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