WCO at the WTO Public Forum 2021 – “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain”

01 October 2021

Under the umbrella of the WTO Public Forum 2021 (WTO PF21), the World Customs Organization (WCO) hosted a panel session on 29 September 2021 focusing on recovery, renewal and resilience for a sustainable supply chain.

This year's Forum, entitled “Trade Beyond COVID-19: Building Resilience”, is looking into the effects of the pandemic on trade and how the multilateral trading system can help build resilience to COVID-19 and future crises. Held in hybrid format, with the participation in person and virtually, this three-day forum, which started on 28 September, is the biggest public outreach event on the World Trade Organization (WTO) calendar.  Its 102 sessions, organized by civil society groups, academics, international organizations, the private sector, WTO Members and others, covered issues ranging from agriculture to digital trade, and from climate change to geopolitics.

The panel session hosted by the WCO “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain” was moderated by Prof. David Widdowson, President of the International Network of Customs Universities. It brought around the table high-level speakers from Customs administrations, Customs brokers associations, and International Organizations, such as Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General, Ms. Tayra Ivonne Barsallo, Director General of the National Customs Authority of Panama, Ms. Carol West, Secretary of the International Federation of Customs Brokers Associations (IFCBA), and Mr. Aik Hoe Lim, Director of Trade and Environment at the WTO.

The panel discussed some of the main challenges faced by Customs, as well as the opportunities offered,  as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the tremendous growth of e-commerce. Ensuring the smooth flow of parcels across borders, while preventing illicit trade, has been a key objective of Customs during the pandemic. The speakers also debated on what needs to be done to mitigate any obstacles to the further growth of e-commerce.

The panellists acknowledged as well that the automation process in Customs has been expedited, stressing that the momentum for digital transformation should be maintained once the pandemic is over.
The panel explored ways that resilience could remain a priority in a post-recovery scenario, and how Customs and supply chain stakeholders were responding to that need. Lastly, the panellists looked into initiatives, programmes and priorities to ensure an effective and equitable transition towards more inclusive, sustainable and greener supply chains.

More on the WTO Public Forum 2021 and its sessions, including WCO session No. 29 can be found here.