First Ever Workshop on WCO Small Island Economies (SIE) Initiative held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

27 May 2019

The World Customs Organization (WCO) in collaboration with the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) Group of States Secretariat, the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), the Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council (CCLEC), and the host country of Trinidad and Tobago, organized a five-day Workshop on a new WCO initiative focusing on the challenges and opportunities faced by Customs administrations in Small Island Economies (SIEs), in Port of Spain from 13 to 17 May 2019. The Workshop was funded by the WCO Reserve Fund, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), and the ACP Secretariat through its Tradecom II Programme.  The generous support by these Organizations brought together eighteen Customs Administrations from the Caribbean region including some non-WCO Members.  The Customs Administrations participating in the Workshop were: Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago.

The Small Island Economies initiative is a new initiative launched by the WCO this fiscal year to bring more attention and provide dedicated support to Customs administrations in SIEs. SIEs, most of which are developing states, face specific social, economic, trade and environmental vulnerabilities and disadvantages associated with small size, remoteness and proneness to natural disasters. The broad aim of this new initiative is to find ways to address these issues and suggest potential measures to assist SIEs in the integration of the global supply, while strengthening their capacities for effective risk management, trade facilitation, security and revenue collection.

The Acting Comptroller of Trinidad &Tobago Customs & Excise Division gave the Opening Remarks of the Workshop.  In her remarks, she encouraged the delegates to open their minds, absorb, learn, share, make friends, network, but most of all take back what they learned to their respective countries and put it into action.  Throughout the rest of the week, the WCO experts provided detailed information along with practical explanations on the challenges and opportunities of Customs administrations in SIEs, information on the accession to and implementation of the WCO instruments and tools, as well as information on the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA) and associated benefits. Facilitated by the experts, the delegates participated in break out groups that assessed the current situation, challenges, opportunities and solutions in the areas of trade facilitation, safety and security, risk management and revenue collection.

The Workshop provided the participants with an opportunity to develop a sound grasp of the issues affecting Customs administrations in SIEs, the WCO tools and instruments to effectively address them, the importance of ensuring the alignment of their national/regional legislation, and how to accede to the Convention establishing a Customs Cooperation Council (WCO) for those who are not yet members of the WCO.  In-depth discussions were also held on the Outline of the Draft Guidance for Customs administrations in SIEs and the recently established Virtual Working Group on SIEs, its objectives, and how to support and participate in both.  The Acting Comptroller of Trinidad & Tobago Customs & Excise Division gave the closing remarks for the Workshop noting its success and significance for Customs Administrations of SIEs in the Caribbean.  The WCO will, in the near future, organize similar events for the Customs administrations of SIEs in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean islands.