At the invitation of Mr. Pedro Miguel Perez Betancourt, Director General of Cuban Customs, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya attended the XXth Regional Conference of Customs Directors General for the Americas/Caribbean Region, held in Havana (Cuba) on 15 and 16 May 2017. The meeting was chaired by Mr. Fabian Villarroel Rios of Chilean Customs, Chile being the current Vice-Chair for the Americas/Caribbean region.
Cuba's Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Mr. Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz, welcomed participants on behalf of the Government of Cuba. He recognized the important role played by the WCO and Customs, particularly in areas such as the protection of society, in contributing to the economic prosperity of nations, in implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, and the introduction of Single Window.
Secretary General Mikuriya presented the current key priorities of the WCO : trade facilitation following the entry into force of the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation where the Revised Kyoto Convention and the Mercator Programmes constituted key implementation tools; e-commerce and the implications for revenue collection, the control of goods and the protection of society in the light of the exponential increase in movements of small packages; security and the role of Customs in combating terrorism; Customs-tax cooperation; and illicit financial flows where the WCO had been mandated by the G20 to contribute to its work on this issue.
These priorities would be at the heart of the discussions at the upcoming Policy Commission and Council sessions.
The Secretary General also drew attention to the forthcoming departure of Deputy Secretary General Sergio Mujica to become the Head of the International Organization for Standardization. Until the new Deputy Secretary General was elected in June 2018 and took up office, the Secretary General said that, with the assistance of the WCO management team, he would assume overall responsibility for the functions of the post of Deputy Secretary General.
Delegates heard a number of panel presentations on topics related to the Regional Strategic Goals, focusing primarily on coordinated border management; promotion of compliance with Customs regulations through implementation of programmes aligned on international standards; and capacity building cooperation. In addition, presentations were made on the possibility of establishing a regional registry of Customs Mutual Administrative Agreements; the use of biometrics as a risk management tool; combating corruption in Customs; and the current status of the TFA.
Finally, delegates welcomed and endorsed the following requests for WCO recognition : by Mexico for a WCO Regional Customs Laboratory; by the United States for a WCO Regional Dog Training Centre; and by Canada also for a WCO Regional Dog Training Centre.
The Secretary General expressed his appreciation to the Director General of Cuban Customs and the Cuban Administration for the warm welcome extended to delegates and for the excellent organization of the Conference.
The participants also expressed their appreciation for the hospitality shown to them by Cuban Customs.
During his stay in Cuba, Secretary General Mikuriya also held bilateral meetings with the Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Mr. Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz, and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Abelardo Moreno Fernandez, both of whom expressed support for the work of the WCO and looked forward to further enhancing Cuba's cooperation with the Organization.
The Secretary General also visited the Customs Management Center at the Jose Marti International Airport to observe first-hand Customs' monitoring of advance passenger information, and paid a visit to the Maritime Terminal and Special Development Zone at Mariel close to Havana.