The Working Group on E-Commerce meets to finalise outstanding work items

17 February 2020

A face-to-face meeting of the WCO Working Group on E-Commerce (WGEC) was held at the WCO Headquarters in Brussels from 12 to 14 February 2020. The meeting brought together close to 120 delegates from Member Customs administrations, partner international organizations, representatives of the postal and express service industry, e-vendors, e-commerce platforms, logistics service providers, Customs brokers and technology service providers. 

In his opening remarks, Mr. Pranab Kumar Das, WCO Director Compliance and Facilitation, took stock of the progress achieved so far in the cross-border E-Commerce domain. In June 2018, the Council endorsed the WCO Framework of Standards on Cross-border E-Commerce (E-Commerce FoS), while the June 2019 Council sessions witnessed the endorsement of the WCO E-Commerce Package, with the exception of three Annexes to the E-Commerce FoS Technical Specifications.

The E-Commerce FoS provides 15 baseline global standards with a focus on the exchange of advance electronic data for effective risk management and enhanced facilitation of the growing volumes of cross-border small and low-value Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) shipments, through simplified procedures with respect to areas such as clearance, revenue collection and return, in close partnership with E-Commerce stakeholders. It also encourages the use of the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) concept, non-intrusive inspection (NII) equipment, data analytics, and other cutting-edge technologies to support safe, secure and sustainable cross-border E-Commerce.

The E-Commerce Package contains Technical Specifications to the E-Commerce FoS, definitions, E-Commerce Business Models, E-Commerce Flowcharts, Implementation Strategy, Action Plan and Capacity Building Mechanism, as well as two case study templates, developed with the objective of further enriching the Framework of Standards for its effective implementation. The Package is designed to provide necessary resource guidance to Members and relevant stakeholders when implementing various standards of the Framework.

The Director further informed delegates that in June 2019, the Council had approved a second 1-year extension of the term of the WGEC, which had to conclude its work, in a virtual manner, by June 2020. Mr. Das then explained that, in October 2019, when considering the outstanding E-Commerce work items, the Permanent Technical Committee (PTC) had discussed the challenges and constraints of work being performed solely in virtual fashion and had requested the Secretariat to explore the possibility of an in-person meeting. Furthermore, in December 2019, the Policy Commission had taken note of an E-Commerce Package Progress Report and had agreed to hold a face-to-face meeting by March 2020.

In this context, the WGEC face-to-face meeting had the important task of enabling the completion of the three outstanding Annexes to the E-Commerce FoS Technical Specifications. These annexes are Reference Data Set for E-Commerce; Revenue Collection Approaches; and E-Commerce Stakeholders: Roles and Responsibilities.

Under the apt chairmanship of Mr. Mike Leahy of the Canada Border Services Agency and Mr. Norm Schenk of the Private Sector Consultative Group, and thanks to the delegates’ constructive engagement, the WGEC endorsed revised texts of the three annexes. The revised text of the Revenue Collection Approaches document contains a reference to Members’ case studies on different revenue collection approaches. Similarly, the Reference Datasets for Cross-Border E-Commerce document contains references to distinct datasets developed and/or piloted by Members to effectively track, target and identify small shipments and cross-border e-commerce parcels. Through the E-Commerce FoS maintenance mechanism, these annexes will keep evolving with the objective of providing resource guidance for harmonized implementation of the Framework.

The WGEC welcomed presentations by the Customs administrations of Brazil and Korea on the E-Commerce Case Studies submitted by the two Members for inclusion in a WCO Compendium of Case Studies on E-Commerce. Furthermore, the WGEC invited Members and stakeholders to submit their case studies and information on E-Commerce datasets.

The WGEC examined a draft PTC decision on the update/maintenance mechanism of the E-Commerce FoS, further developed it and endorsed it for submission to the April 2020 PTC. The WGEC discussed the implementation of the E-Commerce Framework of Standards by Members and the associated Capacity Building support. In this regard, the WGEC examined possible draft indicators on implementation of the E-Commerce FoS with the ultimate objective of achieving an expeditious and harmonized implementation of the Framework of Standards by Members, working in close cooperation with other relevant government agencies and stakeholders.

The outcomes of the face-to-face meeting of the WGEC, as well as the draft Compendium of Case Studies on E-Commerce will be presented to the April 2020 PTC and to the June 2020 Policy Commission and Council for endorsement.

With the duration of the WGEC coming to an end in June 2020, the future work in the area of cross-border E-Commerce will be carried out by the PTC and the Enforcement Committee as per their respective mandates.

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