WCO talks trade facilitation and e-commerce at the 6th Global Review of Aid for Trade

14 July 2017

The WCO has traditionally been taking part in the Global Reviews of Aid for Trade (A4T), which is held every two years at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland. The 6th A4T was held from 11 to 13 July 2017, and brought together over 1500 attendees who took part in the A4T's 55 sessions. 

The WCO took an active role in this year’s A4T by organizing and taking part in a number of sessions, as well as having a series of bilateral meetings. Besides engaging with delagates during the conference, there was also an opportunity to engage with them directly at the WCO stand, where more information on the Organization's instruments, tools, programmes and projects that bring value to the trade facilitation agenda globally could be shared, especially during day 2 of the Conference, which was devoted entirely to trade facilitation.

The WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya spoke at a high-level session on Trade Facilitation, which was moderated by Daniel Blockert, Chair of the WTO Trade Facilitation Committee and Ambassador of Sweden to the WTO. The session brought together the MP and Minister of State for International Development in the UK Lord Bates, Under Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Jemilah Mahmood, Director General of the Global Express Association Carlos Grau Tanner, Research Professor at Shanghai WTO Affairs Consultation Centre and Executive Director at Shanghai Institute for Strategy of International Trade Center Yao Weiqun and Head of Cargo Border Management at International Air Transport Association (IATA) Gordon Wright.

The discussions looked into two aspects of trade facilitation: how WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) implementation was progressing, including aspects related to digitization and the new challenges of e-commerce; and how relief consignments could be better facilitated across borders. Dr. Mikuriya stressed the importance of collaboration with other government agencies and business, utilizing National Committees on Trade Facilitation (NCTFs), in identifying capacity building needs, the current focus of the WCO Mercator Programme.  The same approach could be taken in facilitating the development of Single Windows to help data and data flows that allow the smooth movement of goods across borders, especially when they are based on the WCO Data Model which provides a common data set. He also explained the WCO work on facilitating relief goods in time of natural disasters.  There was general agreement amongst the panelists on the availability of all necessary standards and tools for trade facilitation developed by the WCO, but that they should be used more broadly and effectively by the Members. 

Jointly with Finland, the WCO organized a session “Leveraging Trade Facilitation and E-Commerce: How can International rules and standards ensure trade inclusiveness and connectivity.” The session, which attracted a lot of interest, brought together representatives from Customs administrations (Commissioner of Customs of Uganda Kateshumbwa Dicksons), development partners from Finland (Antti Piispanen, Commercial Counselor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and from Germany (Anja Gomm, Sector Project Development-Oriented Trade Policy, GIZ), eBay ( Hanne Melin, Public Policy Lab for EMEA) and a representative of the pool of Mercator Programme Advisors (Matome Mathole, Customs Attaché at the Embassy of South Africa in Brussels).  The session explored ways in which the TFA on the one hand and the opportunities arising from the tremendous growth of e-commerce on the other, could contribute to economic development, as well as the links between the two and how their full potential could be reaped.

Dr. Mikuriya also gave a keynote speech in a session organized by the Asia Development Bank and UNESCAP on trade facilitation in the Asia-Pacific region. He used this opportunity to raise awareness on the Communiqué from the international Customs community regarding the entry into force of the TFA, which was issued by the WCO Council during its latest sessions in Brussels last week. He further provided more information on the Mercator approach to TFA implementation including evolving from activity-based support to structured, pre-defined multi-year assistance, based on national development plan that focused on results. He further explained how the WCO is more specifically supporting the region with a special emphasis placed on digital connectivity as one of the key priorities.

The WCO Secretary General also used this opportunity to discuss many topics of mutual interest with his counterparts who are based or were visiting Geneva for the A4T Conference. In this regard, he met with WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo to discuss future collaborations between their Organizations. Dr. Mikuriya had a series of bilateral meetings, including with the Vice-President of the Asia Development Bank Dr. Bambang Susantono. They both confirmed the excellent ongoing cooperation between the two Organizations, particularly in the area of Single Window and agreed to further collaborate, especially on the experiences of Members on special Customs procedures and zones, which will be one of the WCO's priorities in the period ahead.

More Information