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EastWest Institute 6th Worldwide Security Conference

19 febrero 2009

EastWest Institute 6th Worldwide Security Conference

WCO Headquarters, Brussels, 18-19 February 2009

Welcome and Introduction by Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to join President John Edwin Mroz of the EastWest Institute in welcoming all of you to the international home of the customs community. We are proud to be part of global efforts to seek new solutions to ongoing challenges for global security and joint action.

We are currently experiencing a great financial crisis that has started to affect international trade and customs operations. While exports and imports are declining, many customs administrations are under pressure to meet revenue targets. Moreover, there is growing concern about a possible new wave of protectionism that would exacerbate rather than alleviate the crisis. It is all the more important to fulfill our mission to secure global trade while avoiding the introduction of new barriers under the current economic situation. The use of risk management is a key element in this context. We are now collecting information from our Members on how best customs can alleviate unnecessary burdens on traders while discharging our responsibilities effectively.

In recent years customs has been faced with many challenges arising from globalization, namely the need for effective security and control of world supply chains on the one hand and a demand for greater facilitation of legitimate trade on the other. In response, the WCO adopted the SAFE Framework of Standards in 2005 that contains provisions promoting customs-to-customs cooperation and a customs-to-business partnership. As a result, customs started to develop authorized economic operator programmes, or in short AEO programmes, as the core of its partnership with business. What this means is that customs identify compliant and reliable business players in the international trade supply chain as AEOs and works in collaboration with them to reduce security risks and facilitate legitimate trade flows. These efforts on the ground require political support which is relevant to this forum.

The change in the trade and customs environment and our recent efforts in responding to the increasing expectations of society have prompted us to reflect on the future direction of the customs community. Consequently, 174 WCO member customs administrations combined their collective thinking and adopted the “Customs in the 21st Century” policy document in June 2008 to chart the way forward for the customs community.

This policy document urges customs to establish a global network based on real-time collaboration between customs authorities and between customs and business in support of the international trading system. The vision of this network implies the creation of a global “e-customs” network that will ensure seamless, real-time and paperless flows of information and connectivity. I would like to see more innovation and technological developments to enable this foresight from public-private partnerships. This forum of course provides an excellent opportunity.

Another important element in “Customs in the 21st Century” is better coordination among all agencies involved in border management on the movement of people, goods and conveyances. Many countries are now looking for more information on a wide range of structural and pragmatic operational models world-wide in order to better understand the various cooperative, coordinated and integrated systems and their potential benefits. The aim of coordinated border management is to ensure consistency and complementary functions among relevant agencies. Therefore I would like to see more coordinated intelligence as the basis for meeting the security challenge which is one of the themes of this conference.

I have already touched upon intelligence-driven risk management, which is another cornerstone of “Customs in the 21st Century”. It is well understood that scarce resources need to be targeted at the higher end of the risk continuum. From this point of view the customs community has expressed its concern on the US legislation that requires 100% scanning of US-bound containers and is asking the US Congress to review the legislation. We believe that 100% scanning is not equal to 100% security and instead advocate a more risk-based approach, which will be discussed tomorrow.

I have so far talked about our efforts in securing and facilitating global trade and how it is linked to the themes this forum is going to discuss. In this context we also have to intensify our fight against illicit trade, such as drug trafficking and counterfeiting. While the flows of these illegal goods pose direct threats to the health and safety of citizens, they are also funding sources of organized crime and potentially terrorism. As customs are jointly enhancing efforts to address the new trend in counterfeiting, I welcome the scheduled discussion on this topic this year.

Finally, I wish you a fruitful exchange of views on common security and joint action.

Thank you for your attention.