WTO PUBLIC FORUM 2018: WCO session on latest technologies and Customs

08 October 2018

3 October 2018, Geneva

One of WTO’s largest annual outreach events, the Public Forum took place this year from 2 to 4 October 2018 at the WTO Headquarters in Geneva, bringing together around 2500 representatives from civil society, academia, business, the media, governments, parliamentarians and inter-governmental organizations.  

The Public Forum was held under the theme of "Trade 2030" with the aim of exploring how technology is transforming our lives and our economies – including the way we trade. In that context, the WCO organized a working session to discuss how latest technologies can improve the work of Customs and other border agencies to facilitate and accelerate trade.

The session included speakers from Customs and the private sector and focused on the on-going work and benefits that the latest technologies, such as Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence, are having in the Customs and border management context and on some of the challenges in preparing for their use and impact. 

Mr. Matome Mathole, Customs Attache of South Africa in Brussels, in his capacity as the Moderator of the WCO Virtual Working Group on the Future of Customs, shared his insight on the ongoing work that the Customs community is carrying out in terms of exploring latest technologies and piloting their use for more effective border management and trade facilitation. Mr. Nicolas Buhmann, Commercial Manager at Maersk, Denmark talked about the TradeLens Joint Venture with IBM and the benefits of Blockchain technology towards building trust along the supply chain. Mr. Brice Lenain, Solution specialist at Microsoft Switzerland talked about the different ways in which artificial intelligence was making a difference in the work of Customs, including the importance of collecting and managing data for its intelligent use. And finally, Ms. Kelly Bélanger, Director General for Travellers Project Portfolio Directorate, at the Canada Border Services Agency explained the importance of developing a strategy for introducing technologies in a world where they are evolving in an accelerated pace. The session was moderated by Mr. Luc De Blieck, Deputy Director for Procedures and Facilitation at the WCO.

The session raised a lot of interest from the audience that enquired, amongst other, about how the different stakeholders in the supply chain could become players in Blockchain technology, but also about the policy interventions required in order to ensure widespread use of this technology.

The WCO has been playing an active role in the WTO Public Forum in the past years by organizing working sessions, providing speakers and sharing information, with the aim of raising the profile of Customs an its relevance in cross-border trade.