Outcomes of the 2024 WCO Council Sessions

29 June 2024

The 143rd /144th Sessions of the World Customs Organization (WCO) Council, the highest decision-making body of the Organization, were held at WCO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium from 27 to 29 June 2024. The Sessions saw the participation of Directors General of Customs representing the WCO’s 186 Members.

Under the guidance of the Chairperson of the WCO Council, Mr. Edward Kieswetter, Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS), they examined the work carried out by the WCO Secretariat and working bodies throughout the year in line with the WCO Strategic Plan 2022-2025. The review covered the technical work done in various areas which related to the main strategic objectives of the Organization, namely trade facilitation, revenue collection, protection of society and organizational development. Attention was particularly paid to the progress in technology and innovation, Green Customs as well as in governance and accountability, being the three focus areas defined by the Strategic Plan.

In this context, the Council took note of recent developments related to the Exploratory Study on a Possible Strategic Review of the HS and the HS Browse and Check app, the Fragile Borders Action Plan and the results of the joint operations conducted in the area of protection of society, the SAFE Framework of Standards and cross-border e-Commerce, the traveller facilitation and control matters, the WCO Secretariat Gender Equality and Diversity Work Plan, the Data Strategy, and the Green Customs action plan.

The Exploratory Study on a Possible Strategic Review of the HS sets out thirty-five findings, including positive recommendations on 15 proposals and referrals for a further 6 proposals, representing changes beyond the existing HS system, for high-level policy consideration. The findings looked at strategies proposed based on their feasibility and their potential impact in terms of enhancing the effectiveness and clarity of the HS and its tools. The Council endorsed the expansion of the WCO/IATA/ICAO Contact Committee on Advance Passenger Information (API) & Passenger Name Record (PNR) Data to encompass all modes of transport, broadening its scope beyond the air transport industry. It also approved the Terms of Reference of the reconstituted Contact Committee which was named the Contact Committee on Advance Passenger Information (API) and Booking & Reservation Information (BRI) / Passenger Name Record (PNR) Data.

Recognizing the importance of co-designing solutions with industry, sharing knowledge, and preparing for potential threats, the Council endorsed a Resolution on Strengthening Customs-Industry Resilience. It invites WCO Members to take a series of actions to this aim, including evaluating and monitoring the efficacy of resilience measures on an ongoing basis and enhancing the use of paperless trade through digitalization.

The Council also discussed and endorsed the Implementation Plan 2024-2025, that will guide the work of the Organization during next financial year, the Environmental Scan 2024, that will directly inform the coming work on the Strategic Plan 2025-2028, as well as proposals to modernize the WCO.

During the sessions, the Directors General of Customs re-elected Mr. Edward Kieswetter, Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service, as the Chairperson of the WCO Council. Furthermore, new regional Vice-Chairs were appointed.

Regarding accessions to WCO instruments, the Council witnessed Honduras depositing its instrument of accession to the International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures (Revised Kyoto Convention - RKC), thus becoming the 137th Contracting Party to the Convention.

The Council delegates also witnessed the signing of two Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) on the formalization of the establishment of the Regional Training Centres (RTC) in India and in Cambodia.

Apart from its heavier business, the Customs Administration of Norway won the annual WCO Photo Competition. The winning photo showcases not only the rugged beauty of its northern landscapes but also the skill and dedication of its officials, who brave long distances and uninhabited areas to fulfil their duties, showing their commitment and expertise. It’s proof that, even in the Customs world, a picture is worth a thousand words.

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