18th Meeting of the SAFE Working Group drives forward the global security and facilitation agenda with tangible deliverables

30 October 2017

The 18th meeting of the SAFE Working Group (SWG), held from 25 to 27 October 2017 at the WCO headquarters in Brussels, brought together over 125 delegates from Customs administrations, partner government agencies, the Private Sector Consultative Group (PSCG) and observer entities including international organizations.

In his opening remarks, the WCO Deputy Director of Procedures and Facilitation Mr. Luc De Blieck welcomed the delegates and underlined the need for a more collaborative approach to addressing the current and emerging security challenges, whilst improving the efficiency of the international supply chain through collective excellence.

The SWG, through breakouts and plenary sessions, explored the opportunities, challenges and potential solutions for strengthening the inter-agency cooperation through the effective implementation of Pillar 3 in order to provide a cohesive response to supply chain security and facilitation issues. Several suggestions were put forward that included, among others, promoting value proposition of coordinated border management; avoiding duplication, in particular inspection and audit; sharing of resources; access and exchange of accurate information between various government agencies, connectivity/interoperability of IT systems, and the implementation of single window and integrated supply chain management concepts.

The SWG made a substantial progress with the finalization of a number of review proposals for updating the SAFE Framework of Standards (SAFE FoS) as part of the 2018 SAFE review cycle, notable among them are the enhancement of Pillar 3 by introducing harmonization of data filing requirements and Single Window concept as well as adding provisions for strengthening cooperation with other government agencies entrusted with regulatory authorities over certain goods (e.g. weapons, hazardous materials) and passenger control; the advance data requirements for postal items, the revision of the definition of the term ‘Validation’, and the addition of more explanatory text on the ‘Financial Viability’ criteria of the AEO Programme.  

In addition, the AEO Package primarily containing a comprehensive list of AEO benefits and the updated AEO Template as well as the MRA Package having the MRA Strategy Guide, and the MRA Implementation Guidance have been finalized. These Packages are expected to provide necessary guidance and support to Customs administrations and businesses in strategic planning, engagements and collaboration with stakeholders and overseas partners, and effective implementation of AEO and MRAs with tangible benefits for all.

A major breakthrough has been made by the SWG with the adoption of a least disruptive but unique Trade Identification Number (TIN) structure – the addition of the 2 digit Alfa numeric ISO Country Code as a separate attribute (qualifier) to the existing national identifier in order to make TIN globally unique. Going forward, a TIN Package will be developed with necessary technical standards, AEO master data elements, and messaging standards by June 2018. This solution is expected to facilitate an efficient implementation of mutual recognition arrangements/agreements (MRAs), greatly benefiting traders and Customs administrations.

To further support Customs administrations and stakeholders with the implementation of different Pillars of the SAFE FoS, the SWG approved some other tools/documents, for example the Advance Cargo Information (ACI) Implementation Guidance and AEO Validator’s Training Course.

Furthermore, it discussed and provided guidance on some of the key issues relating to the interoperability of images from different NII manufacturers noting the progress to date on digital pilots; the development of a guidance on the use of data analytics for enhanced implementation of the SAFE FoS and the AEO Programme; the update of the Integrated Supply Chain Management Guidelines, and the development of a paper on the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA) Authorized Operator (AO) Scheme and the SAFE AEO Programme.

Throughout the meeting, a number interesting and very informative presentations and interventions were made by several delegates on the implementation of AEO, MRA, ACI, and data analytics for effective border management, thus enriching the discussion on respective topics.