SAFE Working Group launches discussion on AEO 2.0

25 April 2019

The 21st Meeting of the SAFE Working Group (SWG) was held from 16 to 18 April 2019 at the WCO headquarters in Brussels.

Welcoming all the SWG delegates, Mrs. Ana B. Hinojosa, WCO Director Compliance and Facilitation, noted that digital economy and gig economy that were setting out a novel narrative for supply chain management required new policy responses and approaches, as well as new key performance indicators, for making borders more seamless and secure.

Acknowledging the SAFE FoS as a successful instrument, the Co-Chairs Ms. Suzanne Stauffer (the EU) and Mr. John Mein (the PSCG) outlined the envisaged work at the SWG Meeting. They recognized the critical importance of working together for robust implementation of the SAFE FoS, while examining new opportunities for enhancing the instrument to provide a concerted response to emerging threats and challenges.

The Meeting brought together over 150 delegates from Customs administrations, partner government agencies, the Private Sector Consultative Group (PSCG), international organizations and academia to discuss issues concerning the effective implementation and maintenance of the SAFE Framework of Standards (FoS) and associated topics for enhancing supply chain security and efficiency. Building upon the past work, the SWG discussed and carried out related work on a number of current and futuristic topics.

Through a panel of experts and an active engagement with delegates, the SWG launched a discussion on AEO 2.0 by offering innovative ideas and futuristic vision, examining associated potential opportunities, and exploring the next steps with a view to strengthening AEO programmes, thus taking the Programme to the next level (AEO 2.0). Several suggestions were put forward that included potential involvement of other government agencies (OGAs) in AEO programmes, adoption of regional/plurilateral approaches to AEO programmes and mutual recognition arrangements/agreements (MRAs), mutual recognition, or consideration in the overall risk management, of the AEO status of traders of partners countries without a formal MRA, international AEO recognition, harmonized benefit standards, expansion of AEO landscape in terms of number of countries, number of economic operators and volume of trade being handled by AEOs, extension of MRA benefits to service providers and intermediaries, and WCO’s greater role in potential certification of AEO programmes. Going forward, it has been agreed to develop a comprehensive concept paper on AEO 2.0 based on the suggestions and input provided by delegates, and continue discussions at future meetings.

Kicking off the new SAFE review cycle 2021, the SWG had a preliminary reflection on the SAFE review proposals received thus far and agreed that further examination of these proposals should be carried out by the SAFE Review Sub-Group, where required, by seeking additional information and clarification from respective Members/stakeholders, as well as by grouping related proposals under key broad themes.

Recognizing the need for harmonized and standardized implementation of the three Pillars of the SAFE FoS, delegates provided several suggestions for performance measurement that included the development of Compendiums on the implementation of Pillar 1 and Pillar 3, along the lines of existing AEO Compendium for Pillar 2; self-assessment engaging the private sector, and peer reviews.

Furthermore, the SWG endorsed the document providing a summary of the Technical Specification of the unified X-ray file format for Non-intrusive Inspection (NII) equipment – UFF 2.0, thus finalizing Phase 2 of the UFF Development Programme; the UFF 2.0 will provide much needed technical solution for seamless interoperability of different NII equipment provided by different manufacturers/vendors, as well as the exchange of images within and between Customs administrations and other government agencies.

Other highlights of this Meeting include the launch of the 2019 edition of the AEO Compendium and the finalization of a Derived Information Package (DIP) for pre-loading advance cargo information (PLACI), as well as the exploration of the account-based border management concept as an additional trade facilitation measure for trusted economic operators and the data pipeline concept in the context of growing digitalization of supply chains.

Finally, the SWG, considered and approved the draft outlines of envisaged study report/guidance on regional/plurilateral approach to AEO programmes and MRAs, application of smart security devices, and interoperability/interconnectivity of systems and processes, for their further development.

Throughout the meeting, many interesting and very informative presentations were given by several delegates and experts from the industry and academia on various facets of the SAFE FoS and its implementation including initiatives/pilots.