Mercator Programme

Since its launch in June 2014, the Mercator Programme has been the WCO flagship initiative supporting Members worldwide in implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), in a uniform manner by applying WCO instruments and tools. The Agreement incorporated the principle that developing or least developed country’s obligations to implement the provisions of the Agreement would be conditional on Member’s acquisition of the necessary technical capacity based on each Member’s evaluation of its own needs and priorities.

The Mercator Programme, being the WCO proactive response to the TFA, is a unique initiative supported by the practical experiences of the global Customs community and has been evolving to address the needs and requirements of the Membership, including those arising from the most recent challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Experience has demonstrated that reducing red tape at borders can offer significant economic benefits in terms of added export potential, increased foreign investment and greater access to a wider variety of goods for consumers. As a central player in the international movement of goods, the benefits of the TFA cannot be realized without the significant involvement of Customs.

With its holistic approach the Mercator Programme follows a dual-track approach that comprises of overall and tailor made tracks that allows the WCO to respond to important cross-cutting as well as country specific challenges to TFA implementation. The “overall track” of the Mercator Programme deals with broader interests, including awareness-raising at global, regional and national levels, as well as updating and developing trade facilitation standards and tools.

The “tailor-made” track focuses on meeting the specific development needs of Members by delivering bespoke technical assistance and capacity building, and to coordinate support effectively amongst all stakeholders.  Activities may be delivered on an “ad hoc” basis or as part of a multi-year (MY) Mercator process of implementation.

The Mercator Programme, while focused on the TFA, recognizes the multiplicity of demands faced by Customs and other border agencies that include pressure to collect revenues in an efficient manner, to protect society and to sanction infringements of Customs law along with the imperatives of trade facilitation and the TFA.  Balancing these core functions requires nimble, ethical, technically competent and strategic organizations that can respond effectively to the variety of competing challenges at the border. For this reason, the Mercator Programme also encompasses a strong organizational development perspective that supports effective human resource management and development. The Mercator Programme continuous to invest in

  • Supporting the formulation of multi-year strategic plans and indicators at national and regional levels;
  • Providing technical assistance and capacity building to support implementation of specific TFA technical measures;
  • Developing new and updating existing instruments and tools to support TFA measures
  • Organizing national and regional-level TFA awareness-raising workshops for Customs administrations;
  • Strengthening leadership and management competencies, attitudes and behaviors at the highest management levels;
  • Developing new training and e-learning materials and establishing local e-learning platforms along with competent trainers within national training institutions;
  • Building project management and donor coordination skills and competencies within modernization and international relations units; and
  • Establishing the foundations for modern, competency-based human resources development and management.