Newly Reconstituted WCO-UPU Contact Committee focused on the implementation of advance electronic data exchange

23 November 2017

Over 50 experts from Customs administrations and postal operators representing various WCO and UPU regions met in Berne from 16 to 17 November 2017 under the framework of the WCO-UPU Contact Committee to discuss Customs-Postal issues.

Opening the meeting, Mr. Abdelilah Boussetta, Director UPU International Bureau and Mr. Luc De Blieck, Deputy Director WCO, underscored the need for strengthening cooperation between Post and Customs at the national level. Given the growing digital and E-Commerce environment and security concerns, Posts and Customs were requested to prioritize the exchange of advance electronic data in order to enhance postal supply chain safety and security and improve facilitation of rapidly increasing volumes of postal items.

Building upon the work done by the previous Committee and armed with the ground level information concerning the preparedness of postal operators and Customs administrations in terms of capturing, exchanging, and using data in an electronic format, the newly reconstituted Contact Committee embarked upon developing comprehensive guidelines providing, among others, a step-by-step approach towards the implementation of electronic exchange of data between Posts and Customs. It urged postal operators and Customs administrations to expedite the establishment of electronic data interface using the joint WCO-UPU Customs-Posts EDI Messages in order to avoid a fragmented approach. In this regard, it noted the important development with regard to the feasibility of interface between the UPU Customs Declaration System (CDS) and the ASYCUDA systems being used by many Customs administrations and related pilots.

In addition, noting the importance of data quality, the Committee examined draft Guidelines on improving compliance with Customs declarations including best practices on the electronic data capture.  The Committee also adopted the updated WCO–UPU Postal Customs Guide, as a reference source on Postal-Customs issues.

The Committee recognized the need for providing tailor-made capacity building and technical assistance in a cohesive manner and acknowledged the ongoing initiatives that included the WCO Mercator programme and the UPU SECUREX and ORE projects. It also noted the need for high-level engagements between policy makers from Customs and Posts around the world to discuss and explore strategic and policy issues and their Implementation in a standardized and harmonized manner, and agreed ‘in principle’ to organize a joint global strategic conference in December 2018.

The UPU global postal model on the advance electronic data, in particular the issues associated with the pre-loading advance cargo information (PLACI) requirements were discussed, wherein the EU presented the updates on the expected timelines for the implementation of the relevant provisions of the Union Customs Code (UCC) and the IT preparedness. The WCO provided the latest information concerning the work done by the Joint WCO-ICAO Working Group on Advance Cargo Information (JWGACI) and the potential way forward. The Contact Committee set up a group comprising Customs and postal operators to carry out further work on the identified issues that could be presented to the JWGACI for its consideration, when finalizing the envisaged concept of operations.

The implementation the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards and the UPU security standards S58 and S59 in a harmonized manner was another area that requires close cooperation between Customs and postal operators. In this context, delegates discussed the relevance of Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) status for postal operators and the challenges related to the compliance to  the AEO criteria and requirements, and noted that postal operators when implementing advance electronic data exchange and complying with UPU security standards would have a better chance of acquiring the AEO status.

E-Commerce was a recurring theme through the meeting that involved discussions on the work being done by the WCO and the UPU and exploration of opportunities for further collaborative work for faster clearance and delivery of E-Commerce parcels, while ensuring compliance to various regulatory requirements. In the similar vein, the expeditious implemenation of the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA) involving postal operators including through National Committees on Trade Facilitation (NCTFs) was well noted as a potential way forward.

Furthermore, some Customs administrations highlighted the growing misuse of the postal chain by criminals for illicit trade and measures being taken by them to curb this phenomenon. To this end, in order to provide an easily accessible list of prohibited and restricted articles in the postal chain, a group was set up to develop such a list in a user-friendly format.

Delegates also shared some recent initiatives including the preliminary positive outcomes of the Postal-Rail project on the movement of postal items by rail from China to Europe and the Australia-New Zealand Green Lane pilot. Additionally, the use of Big Data, predictive analytics and new technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence, machine learning) to effectively leverage voluminous data residing in Postal and Customs domains for effective risk management and efficient service delivery were also discussed.

Going forward, the Contact Committee adopted its work plan with tangible deliverables to support the identified priorities in terms of improving postal chain security and efficiency.