WCO Technology and Innovation Forum - Welcoming speech

05 noviembre 2009

WCO Technology and Innovation Forum

WCO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium
5 to 6 November 2009

Welcoming speech by Kunio Mikuriya , WCO Secretary General

Welcome to the first conference on technology and innovation.

It is well established that technology enables modern Customs administrations to secure and facilitate the global supply chain. As the private sector is increasingly using technology to better manage and trace global flows of goods, Customs should also adapt its business model by embracing innovation. The WCO constantly advises its Members to follow the latest developments in the world of technologies and use them appropriately. Otherwise it will be impossible to cope with ever increasing trade volumes.

The use of technology is one of the cornerstones of the WCO revised Kyoto Convention which enables Customs to adopt modern risk management working methods. More recently, the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards to secure and facilitate global trade shifted Customs’ attention from the traditional port of import to the entire supply chain i.e. from origin to destination. With this shift of attention, the SAFE Framework asks Customs to use technology not only at import, but also at export in order to identify high risk cargo while facilitating the vast majority of legitimate trade flows. Therefore, the global Customs community should closely monitor the development of technologies and innovations, and evaluate the benefits Customs can extract from their usage.

Of course, technology concerns not only Customs but other border agencies as well. Being one of the agencies working at the border, Customs should strive for better border management. Last June the WCO organized the Forum on Coordinated Border Management, and one of the issues discussed was the necessity to use technologies by border agencies.

At the same time, we have to be aware that technology should serve as a supporting means for Customs, and it should not drive Customs regardless of its priorities and capacities but rather help it discharge its responsibilities. By way of example, if we apply scanning technology to all goods despite the risks involved, Customs officers would not be able to do their job efficiently by concentrating on high risk consignments that could endanger the security of the supply chain. 100% scanning does not equal 100% security. Moreover, this approach will seriously damage the smooth flow of goods.

As this example shows, technology on its own is not a panacea; Customs officers should know how to bring it to its best use. Bearing that in mind, the WCO has been carrying out a series of technical seminars on the appropriate use of technology. Some of the recurrent questions include: how can we analyse the image on monitors in a proper manner; and what are the best way to conclude contracts. Those questions were raised at these seminars and the relevant solutions were explored. I believe, this is the right time to assess what kinds of gaps have been identified through the seminars and Members’ requirements. Then we can share experience, success stories and lessons learnt, based on the platform created by this first WCO Technology and Innovation Forum. This will also give us a good opportunity for suppliers to receive feedback on their products from Customs administrations, which are its primary users, and establish direct contacts. After all, Customs administrations should become informed users through dialogue with suppliers but also with fellow administrations.

For a number of years we have been organizing an IT conference, which has become a very successful platform to acquire knowledge on the latest IT developments. We have observed a growing need to establish a dialogue on hardware technologies which would lead to efficiency gains and more effectiveness in daily Customs operations. Thus, the IT conference in the spring and the technology forum in the fall (autumn) should serve as two major wheels to support Customs modernization and reform initiatives.

I wish you to make the best use of this forum as we have many interesting speakers who will enrich the agenda items. I hope that it will become a successful platform to deepen Customs’ knowledge on technologies and innovation.

Thank you.
Click here for the Secretary General’s concluding remarks.