WCO stresses the importance of partnership with the business community to tackle the negative effects of illicit trade on citizens’ health and safety

25 January 2021

At the invitation of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, delivered a virtual opening speech at the 7th Edition of “MASCRADE 2021” - Movement against Smuggled & Counterfeit Trade which was held on 21 January 2021.

The aim of the meeting was to foster a healthy discussion on the latest practical strategies to mitigate the challenges posed by counterfeiting and smuggling, especially in the post-COVID-19 era.

Together with the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, and other dignitaries, Dr. Mikuriya stressed the importance of Customs-Business Partnership in the fight against smuggling and counterfeiting, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Secretary General Mikuriya described the role of Customs during the pandemic, under the WCO’s leadership, in ensuring the smooth cross-border movement of essential goods, including medicines and medical supplies. He explained that the Organization’s robust partnership with its stakeholders had resulted in the issuance of guidance documents and in proactive joint actions with partner international organizations in trade and transport, aimed at addressing bottlenecks and also at assisting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) at the peak of the crisis.

To counter the various security risks exacerbated by the pandemic, namely counterfeiting and smuggling, Dr. Mikuriya emphasized the need for Customs officers to base their risk analysis on accurate and advance electronic data on each cargo shipment as well as on information provided by business. Accordingly, Customs and the private sector should work hand in hand to adapt to the new business environment. He also informed the audience about WCO Operation STOP to combat illegal trafficking linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some 99 WCO Members had taken part in the Operation, which had resulted in substantial seizures of medicines and medical supplies.

Dr. Mikuriya noted that according to data obtained from seizures, small packages linked to E-Commerce were one of the main ways of transporting illicit goods. He therefore recommended implementation of the WCO Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce for enhanced partnership and use of advance information to tackle this risk. He added that data also revealed that free trade zones were being exploited for illicit activities, taking advantage of a lack of appropriate oversight. In this regard, he referred to the new WCO Guidelines on Free Zones to address this issue.

Secretary General Mikuriya concluded by stating that given the challenges ahead, the WCO would dedicate 2021 to Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain, with the support of the Customs community.