WCO-OECD Regional Policy Dialogue: taking scope of illicit trade in Europe

10 November 2016

In cooperation with the OECD’s Public Governance and Territorial Development Directorate, the WCO co-organized and hosted the WCO-OECD Regional Policy Dialogue on countering illicit trade: addressing governance gaps in Europe in Brussels on 7-8 November 2016. This meeting was organized under the auspices of the OECD Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade (TFCIT) under the High Level Risk Forum. This event featured a multi-stakeholder platform for policy oriented research on illicit trade, building on the Task Force expertise as well as on past Regional Policy Dialogues such as the one that took place in Veracruz, Mexico, in 2014.

More than 90 delegates from 25 countries attended the meeting, representing WCO and OECD Members, including law enforcement and governmental agencies, INTERPOL, Europol, the European Commission and European Parliament along with the private sector, NGOs and academia.

The Policy Dialogue was co-chaired by Mrs Ana B. Hinojosa, Director of the WCO’s Compliance and Facilitation Directorate, and Mr David Luna, Chair of the OECD’s Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade and Senior Director for National Security and Diplomacy at the US Department of State. Mrs Hinojosa underscored during her opening remarks that the hosting of the Regional Policy Dialogue further reiterates WCO’s commitment to cooperate with the OECD in the spirit of the Memorandum of Understanding signed at high level in March 2016 by both organizations. Director Hinojosa pointed out that the WCO strongly believes in and supports research and evidence-based policies, and this event is a stepping stone towards the development of better policies through the regular dialogue between the legislative and the executive authorities. She also highlighted the global nature of the phenomenon of illicit trade and reiterated that no region in the world is immune to its consequences, including Europe.

In his opening remarks, Mr David Luna thanked the WCO for its’ international leadership on law enforcement and Customs security, highlighting its recent successes in Operation Gryphon II on countering illicit tobacco smuggling and Operation Chimera on light weapons and cash and bearer negotiable instruments. Mr. Luna also reported on recent trends related to illicit trade in Europe and beyond, including the illicit trade in products such as counterfeits, illicit tobacco, or antiquities sold across European, and other markets that fuel webs of corruption and criminality – and in some cases, finance terrorist activities. He echoed Mrs Hinojosa’s remarks on the need to unite against this scourge. In conclusion, Mr Luna provided the participants with the vision to strengthen public-private partnerships to counter illicit trade in other regions and invited everyone to cooperate closer with the Task Force.

The Regional Policy Dialogue included a Parliamentary session on illicit trade in Europe with a debate between two Members of the European Parliament, and five panel discussions on a wide range of cross-cutting issues. These issues covered the cooperation across Customs and other enforcement agencies; addressing the global supply chain vulnerabilities through the analysis of Free Trade Zones; tackling illicit financial flows and trade based money laundering; analyzing the European dimension of illicit wildlife trade and steps taken by the European legislative and executive bodies; examining the European approach to prosecution and penalties to combat illicit trade.

The WCO stays committed to further partnering with the OECD Taskforce on Countering Illicit Trade and contributing to its work by channeling the voice of Customs and sharing the expertise of the Customs community in this unique policy setting.