WCO/KRA side event at the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference – Customs community reaffirms its commitment to full implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement

17 December 2015

As a side event at the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC10) held in Nairobi, Kenya from 15 to 18 December 2015, the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) jointly organized a session on Trade Facilitation – Borders Divide, Customs Connects, which took place on Wednesday 16 December at KRA premises.

The event was supported by the governments of Finland and Sweden and brought together over 120 participants, including representatives of Customs, WTO delegates from trade and other ministries, international organizations, development partners and the private sector.

The panel shared the lessons learnt in implementing trade facilitation measures, including the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), and identified success factors and key challenges.

Mr. John Njraini, Commissioner General of KRA, welcomed participants and stressed the importance of Coordinated Border Management, now included in the Kenyan legal framework.  He also announced the launch of a pre-arrival clearance system.

In his opening remarks the Deputy Director General of the WTO, Mr. Yi Xiaozhun, applauded the WCO’s efforts in support of TFA implementation, including the ongoing activities of the WCO TFA Working Group and the Mercator Programme.  He wished to maintain the momentum and cooperation between the WCO and the WTO in this respect.

The session was moderated by Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General of the WCO, who introduced the Communication of the Customs Community to the MC10 issued by the Policy Commission on 8 December 2015, reaffirming the Customs Community’s commitment to fully implement the TFA and encouraging Members to ratify the Agreement.

Ms. Moono Mupotola, Director, NEPAD, Regional Integration and Trade, African Development Bank (AfDB), welcomed the revitalization of cooperation between the WCO and the AfDB with the aim of bringing in WCO expertise, especially since the conclusion of the TFA.  The AfDB would be supporting the use of WCO tools, such as the Time Release Study.

Mr. Dicksons C. Kateshumbwa, Commissioner of Customs, Uganda Revenue Authority, mentioned three key points: 1. Political will; 2. Leadership of Customs; and 3. Cooperation and support from government and development partners.  He explained the importance of the regional approach in developing Authorized Economic Operator schemes within the East African Community for achieving mutual recognition arrangements and reaping the full benefits of implementation.  He further indicated the need to involve the private sector at every stage of the reform process.

Regarding the evolution of the KRA’s role from revenue collection towards enhancing trade facilitation and security, Mr. Julius Nzau Musyioki, Commissioner of Customs Services, Kenya Revenue Authority, stressed the importance of the Revised Kyoto Convention and other WCO instruments and tools.  He further emphasized the role of Information and Communication Technologies and Risk Management for improving border management procedures.

The relevance of cooperation between all key stakeholders and the role of the National Committees on Trade Facilitation (NCTF) in implementing the TFA was particularly stressed by Mr. I.V. Mazorodze, Commissioner of Customs & Excise, Swaziland Revenue Authority.  The TFA represented an important ‘umbrella’ for bringing together all relevant government agencies.  He underlined the benefits of using the Time Release Study for measuring and improving border performance.

H.E. Ms. Tarja Fernández, Ambassador of the Republic of Finland to the Republic of Kenya, announced the launch of the second phase of a three million euro Finnish-funded project managed by the WCO.  She further stressed that the TFA was particularly important for involving small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and women in global value chains, and underscored the need to have a ‘common language’ and international standards for harmonized TFA implementation.

The panel led to a lively discussion between the participants.  The WTO MC10 Chair (Kenyan Cabinet Secretary) conveyed a message encouraging other African states to ratify the TFA as it would benefit the African economy.  The WCO TFA Working Group (WG) Chair Mrs. Gugu explained the WG’s activities and invited all stakeholders to join the WG.  Other representatives from international organizations, regional economic communities and business also took the floor to support the WCO’s ongoing work and Customs’ efforts in support of implementing the TFA, while pointing out that there was still a lot of work ahead.

The panel session identified that factors for successful implementation of any trade facilitation reforms included: strong and continuous political will; cooperation and coordination at national level between ministries, border management agencies and the private sector; cooperation and support at international level by international organizations and development partners; use of international standards, instruments and tools for harmonized TFA implementation; and sharing of best practices.  They all praised the excellent organization of the Conference and the hospitality extended by the KRA.