WCO Regional Meeting for the North of Africa, Near and Middle East region

05 February 2010

WCO Regional Meeting for the North of Africa, Near and Middle East region

Khartoum (Sudan), 2-3 February 2010


The 31st Meeting of Directors General of Customs of the North of Africa, Near and Middle East (MENA) region was held in Khartoum (Sudan) on 2 February 2010, at the kind invitation of the Sudanese administration.

The Meeting was very well attended and at a very high level. It was chaired by the Director General of Saudi Customs on behalf of the regional Vice-Chair. Opening addresses were given by the Director General of Sudanese Customs, the Secretary General of the WCO and the Sudanese Minister of Finance and National Economy. They highlighted the challenges facing national economies and Customs administrations at this difficult time when the impact of the global financial crisis was still being felt. They also emphasized the importance of Customs’ role in protecting society whilst at the same time facilitating the flow of legitimate trade, and working in partnership with the private sector. The need for Customs cooperation at regional and global level was underlined.

In the course of the Meeting, the Secretary General presented the key outcomes of the December 2009 Policy Commission session, expanding in particular on several of the building blocks in the Customs in the 21st Century paper, namely globally networked Customs (including the Customs Enforcement Network and its associated applications), coordinated border management, risk management, the Customs-Business partnership, and capacity building. These topics were then developed in a series of presentations by Members from the Region and were the subject of discussion. The presentations included the work of the Ad Hoc Group on Globally Networked Customs (Saudi Arabia); globally networked Customs (Jordan); risk management (Egypt, Jordan and Sudan); coordinated border management and the Single Window (Tunisia); integrity (Morocco); and the work of the Regional Office for Capacity Building in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), for which the Members of the region were urged to provide their support - particularly through the provision of experts.

Specific outcomes of the meeting included: (i) agreement to constitute a regional “follow-up” committee on globally networked Customs to work, inter alia, on the coordination and exchange of information and expertise in the enforcement and commercial fields in order to arrive at automatic linking in the region; (ii) agreement to establish a third Regional Training Centre for the MENA region, in Saudi Arabia; (iii) consideration of the regional training plan for 2010; and (iv) an indication by several Members that they would be acceding to the Revised Kyoto Convention in the next few months.

Gratitude was expressed to the Director General of Sudanese Customs and his officers for the excellent organization of the Meeting.

A full report on the Meeting will be prepared by the regional Vice-Chair and made available in due course.

During his visit to Khartoum, the Secretary General also met with a number of Sudanese Federal Ministers: the Minister of Finance and National Economy; the State Minister of Foreign Trade; the Minister of International Cooperation; and a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

During these meetings, Mr. Mikuriya emphasized the importance of the role of Customs in facilitating legitimate trade; an essential driver of the national economy. In this connection, he welcomed the recent accession of Sudan to the Revised Kyoto Convention, which would undoubtedly stand the country in good stead as it moved towards membership of the World Trade Organization.

Mr. Mikuriya also held meetings with high-ranking Customs officials, including Director General Suliman, and visited the Customs training institute as well as a Customs laboratory.

Finally, the Secretary General met with representatives of the Sudanese private sector to hear more about a recent partnership agreement signed with the Customs administration. This initiative provides, inter alia, for training to be given to the private sector, as well as monthly meetings between the two parties. It constitutes a positive example of the Customs-Business partnership, the theme selected for International Customs Day in 2010.