WCO addresses Customs Union Group under EU Bulgarian Presidency

10 January 2018

At the invitation of the Bulgarian Presidency of the European Union (EU), WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya addressed delegates from the 28 EU Member States who were attending the meeting of the Customs Union Group on 10 January 2018 in Brussels.

Congratulating Bulgaria on assuming EU Council Presidency, Secretary General Mikuriya first wished the Presidency and delegates every success as they faced a challenging year for Customs. Secretary General Mikuriya then continued by informing the delegates that at the extraordinary session held in December 2017, the Council had elected Mr. Ricardo Treviño Chapa (Mexican Customs) as the WCO's new Deputy Secretary General, to take up his duties with effect from 1 January 2018. The Council had also discussed the issue of accession to the WCO - an issue that had now dominated two Council sessions. The discussions had led to the suggestion of a working group to examine the issue of accession. Mr. Mikuriya expressed the hope that at the June 2018 Council sessions, agreement would be reached on  theTerms of Reference and composition of the working group - an outcome that would allow the Council to revert to discussions on Customs technical matters.

He went on to outline the WCO's extensive work programme for the coming year, placing particular emphasis on  the six priorities identified by Members, namely: Trade Facilitation, E-Commerce, Security, Illicit Financial Flows, Customs/Tax Cooperation, and Performance Measurement. In particular, the Secretary General sought support from the European Union as regards the approval of the text of an MoU on WCO/IMF cooperation as well as the provision of information, inter alia, on Time Release Studies, in order to enhance the data available for analysis and increase the profile of Customs.

Secretary General Mikuriya also informed delegates that the vacancy notice for the post of Secretary General would be issued today and that he would be a candidate for what would be his final term.

Mr. Stephen Quest, the Director General of the European Commission’s Taxation and Customs Union Directorate (DG TAXUD), explained the main issues for the EU in the coming year. He stressed the important challenges posed, and noted the convergence and complementarity between the objectives of the EU and those of the WCO. He emphasized that 2018 marked the 50th Anniversary of the setting up of the Customs Union, and both the Commission and the Members should celebrate this unique achievement by highlighting the effectiveness of the Union.

Director General Quest recalled the many highlights of 2017 that underpinned much of the work for the coming year. He said that great importance would be assigned to the implementation of the Union Customs Code, taking into account the need for a digital solution. He added that substantial work would be carried out on IT, a multi-annual strategic plan for Customs, governance, cooperation with border police, Terms of Reference for a Trade Contact Group, Tax/Customs cooperation, a VAT stimulus package etc.

Secretary General Mikuriya concluded by thanking the Bulgarian Presidency for the opportunity to address the Customs Union Group in what had now become a feature of the Group's first meeting every year.