East African Customs participates in Benchmarking Study on IPR Border Control in Thailand and Japan

24 May 2019

Under the auspices of the WCO/JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) Joint Project, a total of thirteen officials from the Customs administrations in five East African countries (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda) and the Directorate of Customs of the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat visited Thailand and Japan on 7-10 and 13-16 May 2019.  The purpose of the visits to these countries was to participate in a benchmarking study on the control of goods infringing Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) by Thai and Japan Customs.  IPR control is a part of an overall project by the 5 Customs Administrations in East Africa, under the guise and support of the WCO and JICA Trade Facilitation and Border Control Project in East Africa, to further enhance their border control functions.  In particular on IPR-infringed goods, as these countries are experiencing increasing flows of counterfeit goods coming into their countries.   

As background, IPR border control was identified as a common challenge in the region during the WCO/JICA joint risk management fact-finding missions in 2018, in which a team of experts had intensive discussions with each administration on a number of key issues relating to risk management. These discussions determined that capacity building in IPR border control was considered an area that could be supported by the WCO/JICA Joint Project. As a first step, the five Customs administrations in East Africa agreed to conduct a benchmarking study to learn more about the best practices by other Customs administrations and to identify the areas of improvement on their IPR border control operations.  Subsequently, Thai Customs and Japan Customs kindly agreed to host this important mission.

Accompanied by the WCO and JICA experts, thirteen officials from the five administrations and EAC Secretariat visited Thailand on 7-10 May and Japan on 13-16 May respectively.  During the visit, the participants exchanged procedures and practices with Thai and Japan Customs relating to IPR border controls, such as legal/institutional framework, cooperation with relevant authorities, partnership with Intellectual Property (IP) Right Holders, use of the recordation system as well as ex-officio control, public awareness activities and human resource development/management. To enrich this benchmarking study, a WCO IPR expert assigned to the Asia Pacific Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB A/P) kindly agreed to join the Thai-leg of the study and shared her valuable expertise on IPR border control including the TRIPS agreement and IPR-related WCO tools/instruments. To understand the respective Customs procedures and practices better, the participants were given opportunities to visit ports in Bangkok and Tokyo to observe the Customs operations there.  In addition, the participants were also invited to participate in a roundtable discussion with the IP rights holders in Japan related to information on current procedures and to discuss how Customs and IP rights holders can work together.

Through the benchmarking study, the participants identified a number of useful good practices and recommendations by Thai and Japan Customs that they will take back to their home administrations in order to further enhance their border control functions on IPR infringing goods.  All participants, the WCO and JICA, expressed their utmost appreciation to the Customs Administrations of Thailand and Japan for their cooperation and the information shared.