Renewed commitment of Heads of Customs Administrations of the Asia/Pacific Region to WCO Strategies and Integrity Culture

06 February 2015

At the invitation of Dato’ Sri Khazali Ahmad, Director General of the Royal Malaysian Customs Department and Vice-Chair of the WCO Asia/Pacific Region, and of Mr. Roman Quaedvlieg, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS), in Australia’s capacity as host of the Conference, Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya participated in the 16th WCO Asia/Pacific Regional Heads of Customs Administrations (RHCA) Conference held in Melbourne, Australia on 6 February 2015.

The Conference was chaired by Dato’ Khazali Ahmad, who welcomed delegates to Australia for this key event to formulate decisions on issues with a regional focus and on WCO strategic issues. This was a transitional meeting of the Region’s Directors General as it moves from a biennial to an annual event.

Secretary General Mikuriya highlighted the key discussions held at the December 2014 Policy Commission in Recife, Brazil, namely performance measurement and implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) through the WCO’s Mercator Programme, stressing the cooperative relationship between the two Organizations with the WCO hosting the TFA Working Group. Members expressed strong support for the Mercator Programme and for WCO advocacy in favour of Customs playing an essential role in National Committees on Trade Facilitation.  Mr. Mikuriya also underlined the importance of trade security as the SAFE Framework of Standards marks its 10th anniversary, with the addition of a third Pillar for Customs to Other Government Agencies, expected to be adopted at the next Council sessions.  In terms of performance measurement, Members appreciated the WCO initiative to set up 20 high-level indicators, with some Members sharing their initial evaluation based on the 20 proposed indicators.

Issues of key importance for the Region were also discussed at the Conference, including the future of the Regional Steering Group and Regional Contact Points Meetings to effectively support decisions to be taken at the RHCA Conference, private sector engagement and the Project on Customs Anti-Drug Strategy (CADS).  WCO strategic issues were discussed as well, such as effective linkages between the WCO Strategic Plan and regional plans, the election process for WCO officials and the impact of e-commerce on revenue collection. In addition, the Conference welcomed the activities reported by the regional structures, namely the RILO and the ROCB.

Heads of Customs Administrations also attended the Integrity Dialogue held on 5 February 2015 at the same venue, in order to exchange views and experiences on how to address organizational integrity risks through fostering integrity culture and the use of technology. During this Integrity Dialogue, Mr. Quaedvlieg of ACBPS, which also hosted this event, shared his personal and practical experience of tackling issues of discretionary powers conferred to Customs officers and immobility or stagnation of Customs officers’ postings which may lead to problems such as misuse of executive powers and lack of accountability.

Participants expressed their gratitude to ACBPS for its excellent organization of the Conference and warm hospitality, and to Malaysia for its strong leadership as Vice-Chair.