International Customs Day 2010

26 January 2010

International Customs Day 2010

26 January 2010

Speech by Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General, World Customs Organization

In these early years of the 21st Century, there is no alternative other than cooperation between all those involved in international trade - this is the key to development and the engine which drives the global economy forward. We must stand together as we look to the future.

This aspect is particularly important as we recover from the worst economic downturn since the depression of the 1930s. As the sluggish world economy continues, we must stay vigilant against the potential temptation of protectionism.

It is time to sweep away inertia and to engage in a new dialogue. Together, with optimism and determination, we will develop an innovative and active approach to face the challenges ahead. The future for all international trade stakeholders is closely linked, and depends on our ability to work together.

This means that Customs cannot act alone without taking into account the interests of its partners. It must further develop consultation, promote information exchange and cooperation, and reduce the barriers to the smooth flow of trade by jointly identifying bottlenecks and offering solutions.

Indeed, Customs must review its fundamentals, as must its partners who need to gain a better understanding of Customs, its mission and its challenges. To achieve a balanced partnership, the private sector must take on board the two facets of Customs’ role. On the one hand, the mission of Customs entails collecting revenue and managing borders to secure the supply chain and to protect society. On the other hand, the mission of Customs entails facilitating legitimate trade by granting benefits to operators committed to compliance and transparency built on trust.

This period of change should prompt all stakeholders to work more closely together, double their efforts to cooperate internationally, establish a new dynamic, and take bold initiatives aimed at simplification, speed, transparency, predictability, effectiveness, efficiency and fairness of procedures.

In many of its instruments, tools and best practices, the WCO recommends that Customs administrations press forward with the establishment of partnerships with legitimate economic operators, forge links with business networks and with professional associations. These instruments include the SAFE Framework of Standards and its integral Authorized Economic Operator concept, the Private Sector Consultative Group, the Revised Kyoto Convention, the Revised Arusha Declaration on Integrity and the WCO Data Model.

Encompassing all this development, the WCO “Customs in the 21st Century” (C21) strategic policy identifies Customs-Business Partnerships as one of the ten building blocks to define a new strategic direction for Customs and the WCO. In realizing the other C21 building blocks, including Globally Networked Customs, Coordinated Border Management and Risk Management, it is indispensable to work with our business partners to achieve a more fruitful relationship.

The WCO is a unique international organization in the trade area and has benefited from the participation of international trade associations, resulting in the establishment of the “Customs-Business Partnership” as the cornerstone of its actions in a spirit of consultation, dialogue and openness.

Therefore, I feel it is essential to emphasize the need for Customs to work closely with business in its day-to-day operations in a shared endeavor to enhance performance. With this in mind I have decided that our theme for International Customs Day on 26 January 2010 will be “Customs and business: improving performance through partnerships”.

In order to visualize this partnership approach, there are many initiatives that Customs administrations have launched or are in the pipeline. For example, last week Moroccan Customs and business associations established an Integrity Observatory composed of Customs and business representatives with the participation of civil society. The Observatory will jointly collect and analyze information on corruption, develop policy proposals to improve integrity and carry out periodic reviews. This is a laudable partnership approach, strongly supported by political leaders.

Another recent example was holding of the Presentation Session on the new Customs Union between Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation here in this meeting room yesterday. This was the first opportunity for the business community to get information on the progress in the establishment of this Customs Union. I hope this will provide a good basis for enhancing dialogue and consultation with the trading community.

Convinced that there will be more examples in the spirit of cooperation with business, I am counting on your full support to pass on this message by action to both Customs and business. Against this background I am delighted that Customs officials, businesses and professional associations working to strengthen the “Customs-Business Partnership” are being honored on 26 January 2010.

To conclude, let us take action to enhance the partnership, remembering that every journey must begin with a first step.

I wish you all a very happy International Customs Day!