World Customs Organization dedicates 2019 to transforming frontiers into SMART borders for seamless Trade, Travel and Transport

15 November 2018

The Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), Kunio Mikuriya, announced on 8 November 2018 that 2019 will be devoted to the swift and smooth cross-border movement of goods, people and means of transport, with the slogan “SMART borders for seamless Trade, Travel and Transport.”

Customs, working with other agencies at the border, plays a pivotal role in facilitating trade and travel, simplifying, standardizing and harmonizing border procedures, and securing the borders. It is, therefore, quintessential for Customs to take the lead in consolidating and further amplifying the ongoing efforts to ease the flow of goods and people across borders, thus turning globalization into a positive force. To that end, the WCO commits to promote the transformation of frontiers into “SMART Borders” with Customs acting as the central connecting and coordinating hub.

Against this background we are introducing the concept of SMART borders to strengthen the whole-of-government endeavour to facilitate trade and travel and mitigate threats inherent to the cross-border flows of goods, people and means of transport.

By SMART we mean that Customs should ensure that the following guiding principles are at the centre of Customs compliance, enforcement and facilitation efforts: Secure, Measurable, Automated, Risk Management-based and Technology-driven.  

  • Secure

Customs, partner government agencies and economic operators are called upon to continue pursuing the common objective of enhancing supply-chain security and efficiency based on mutual trust and transparency. The WCO will further assist its Members to ensure the security and safety, while promoting the SAFE Framework of Standards and the SAFE Package 2018.

  • Measurable

Measuring the actual performance of Customs in facilitating trade and controlling the borders, and evaluating the overall organizational performance are the two major pillars at the heart of sound decision-making processes for Customs administrations.  Going forward, the WCO will initiate discussion on developing a robust, comprehensive and fully scientific methodology for performance measurement that aims to cover all major Customs competencies and go beyond the scope of the Time Release Study (TRS).

  • Automated

Automation underpins every aspect of a modern Customs administration.  In an era characterized by rapid digitalization, shared economy, E-Commerce, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the demarcation between physical, digital and biological components is fading. Customs should strengthen measures to exploit cutting-edge technologies to improve its processes, services and overall performance.

  • Risk Management-based

An intelligence-driven and data-enabled risk management framework allows Customs administrations to be more effective at all levels, especially decision-making and targeted intervention. Customs needs to focus on a common approach to identify and address potential risks on a more dynamic basis.

  • Technology-driven

Digital disruption has brought about new opportunities and challenges for Customs and partner government agencies, which triggers the need to explore the use of other information and communication technologies, namely: smart track and trace technologies for cargo, containers and conveyances; a world-wide standard for x-ray image for interoperability between different NII equipment; advanced technologies to provide intelligence through chemical analysis of products; and the practical use of geo-spatial technologies and drones for monitoring of fragile or inaccessible terrains and borders.

“Working smartly means being prepared to reengineer business processes while applying new technologies, and achieving an interconnected global value chain that fosters economic growth in an inclusive manner. Customs should be the central connecting and coordinating hub to ensure that Trade, Travel and Transport become seamless and legitimate trade is facilitated and the borders secured,” said Secretary General Mikuriya.

Many WCO tools, instruments and initiatives have been developed and will be further enhanced to readily assist Customs administrations in making the transition to SMART Borders.

The WCO’s annual theme will be launched on International Customs Day, which is celebrated annually by the global Customs community on 26 January in honour of the inaugural session of the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC) which took place on 26 January 1953.

The WCO invites the Customs community to mark 26 January 2019 in their diary.