The SAFE Working Group endorses the SAFE 2021 Framework of Standards after a successful Review Cycle and paves the way to prioritize its activities in line with the WCO’s COVID-19 Action Plan

20 April 2021

The 25th Meeting of the SAFE Working Group (SWG) was held virtually from 14 to 16 April 2021. The virtual Meeting brought together more than 240 delegates representing Customs administrations, the Private Sector Consultative Group (PSCG), other international organizations and academia.

Mr. Pranab Kumar Das, WCO Director of Compliance and Facilitation, in his opening remarks extended his appreciation to the SWG delegates for their support and contribution to the numerous activities of SAFE Framework of Standards (SAFE FoS), particularly for the tremendous work carried out on the SAFE Review Cycle 2021. He urged all delegates that it was critical for this meeting to conclude the SAFE review process in order to ensure the timely submission of the SAFE FoS 2021 edition to the upcoming Policy Commission and Council for approval. Acknowledging the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Co-Chair Mr. John Mein (PSCG) and Customs Vice-Chair Mr. Richard Bargh echoed Director’s opening remarks, called for a strong partnership between Customs and the private sector to help further build the resilience of cross-border supply chains.

One of the major milestones achieved by the 25th SWG Meeting was being able to successfully conclude the SAFE Review Cycle 2021 and subsequently endorse the SAFE FoS 2021 edition.  In the new version of the SAFE FoS, a fifth core element promoting closer collaboration between Customs and Other Government Agencies is added to the existing four core elements. Further, the new amendments mainly pertain to smart security devices, mutual recognition, regional customs union's AEO progammes and plurilateral MRAs, as well as the reporting mechanism under the SAFE FoS.

The 25th SWG Meeting approved the "AEO Implementation and Validation Guidance" and "Regional customs union's AEO programmes and plurilateral MRAs" guidelines, which were developed with exemplary collaboration and commitment showcased by volunteers from Customs administrations and PSCG Members. In addition, the Meeting supported the Online AEO Compendium Phase I project moving forward.

Considering the WCO’s Council Resolution on the need to prioritize Customs actions in addressing COVID-19 issues and challenges, the Meeting took note of relevant and important agenda items pertaining to Capacity Building activities in the SAFE/AEO areas, the role of the SAFE FoS in bolstering recovery, renewal and resilience for a sustainable supply chain, expanding the concept of AEO to cross-border E-commerce stakeholders, and updating the WCO-ICAO joint brochure, among others. Further, delegates heard from representatives of the European Union who delivered a presentation on Pre-Loading Advance Cargo Information (EU-ICS2) and from the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) who presented on Customs-Ports collaboration.

The 25th Meeting of the SWG successfully fulfilled its core mandate with the timely completion of the SAFE Review Cycle 2021 and by endorsing the SAFE FoS 2021 edition for final approval by the Policy Commission and the Council Sessions to be held in June 2021.