Regional consultation on WCO modernization with the Asia/Pacific region

09 February 2023

On 7 and 8 February 2023, the WCO conducted its sixth and final regional consultation on WCO modernization with the Asia/Pacific (A/P) region. Twenty-one Member administrations and the Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB) for A/P participated in this fully virtual consultation.

The A/P regional consultation was chaired jointly by the regional Vice-Chair, Mr. Michael Outram of Australia, and the WCO Deputy Secretary General, Mr. Ricardo Treviño Chapa. As was the case with the five previous regional consultations, the discussions focused on seven specific issues outlined in a discussion document, prepared in advance by the WCO Secretariat, concerning the current internal situation of the Organization and potential improvements for moving towards overall WCO modernization.

In his opening remarks, the regional Vice-Chair referred to many changes in the international operating environment, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring proper adaptation by the WCO in order to make the Organization a key influencer at global level. He welcomed the holding of regional consultations on these matters, highlighting the importance of taking stock of the WCO’s current position prior to developing a detailed strategy for its modernization. The Deputy Secretary General agreed that a general brainstorming process was required before being able to chart a clear path forward, together with related deliverables. He recalled the decision made at the December 2022 session of the Policy Commission regarding the extension of the timeframe for completing the exercise, ensuring that the final document to be presented in June 2024 duly considered all the relevant aspects to be addressed.

The participants from the A/P region focused in particular on the importance of ensuring a good balance between ambition and reality, especially taking into account the Organization’s limited resources. They reiterated the principles of a balanced approach when it came to implementing standardized or corporate mechanisms in many areas of the WCO’s operations. The approach should safeguard the agility and flexibility of the Organization’s overall structure while taking full account of regional realities and priorities. They also unanimously supported the idea that WCO modernization should drive the entire Organization towards better governance and stronger accountability, supported by enhanced transparency in its operations and procedures.

The WCO Modernization Plan is one of the key deliverables specified in the Strategic Plan 2022-2025 for responding to the needs identified in the Focus Area “Governance and accountability”. This sixth and last regional consultation marks the end of the first round of consultations, with involvement by all the regions and WCO management. The consultative process will be pursued and will involve additional stakeholders, up to the submission of the WCO Modernization Plan to the Policy Commission and Council in June 2024 for endorsement.