WCO engages Customs administrations in ASEAN region to discuss strategic trade controls in Free Trade Zones

18 April 2024

From 15 to 18 April, 2024, the World Customs Organization (WCO), in partnership with the EU P2P, the US Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security Programme (EXBS), the US Department of Energy’s Nonproliferation Export Control Programme (INECP) and Singapore Customs, convened two back-to-back events focused on enhancing strategic trade controls in Free Trade Zones (FTZ).

The first event on Strategic Trade Management in FTZ was a high-level multistakeholder engagement bringing together over 60 participants and observers from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. The delegates represented licensing authorities, various governmental agencies overseeing FTZ and Customs administrations.

The primary objective was to raise awareness of the global security threats within FTZs and underscore the significance of robust strategic trade management practices within Free Trade Zones (FTZs) across Southeast Asia. A specific focus was made on clarifying the notion of the so-called ‘extraterritoriality’ of FTZ, as highlighted in the WCO Research Paper 47.

The second workshop, organized by the WCO, addressed the implementation of strategic trade controls by Customs administrations in FTZs across the ASEAN region. Building on the insights of the high-level workshop, the second event provided a comprehensive overview of Customs policies and practices across the region. Dialogue among ASEAN Customs administrations facilitated the identification of existing gaps in Customs controls and paved the way for collaborative efforts to address them. The outcomes of this engagement will inform the development of roadmap documents tailored to each Customs administration, outlining measures to enhance strategic trade security within FTZs.

During this week in Singapore, the two events underscored the commitment of the international community to strengthen strategic trade controls and safeguard the integrity of Free Trade Zones. By fostering dialogue and collaboration, the WCO and its partners are actively contributing to the global peace and security agenda in line with the WCO Punta Cana Resolution.