WCO Council agrees on the road ahead at the conclusion of its 2017 annual sessions

08 julio 2017

Heads of Customs administrations representing the Members of the World Customs Organization (WCO) met in Brussels, Belgium from 6 to 8 July 2017 for the 129th/130th Sessions of the WCO Council, led by Ruslan Davydov, the Chairperson of the Council and First Deputy Head of the Federal Customs Service of the Russian Federation, with the support of Kunio Mikuriya, the WCO Secretary General.

Discussions focused on a number of key issues: trade facilitation, including the WCO Mercator Programme that was designed to assist WCO Members in implementing the Customs related measures contained in the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) - a communiqué was issued highlighting the support of the Customs Community to the entry into force of the WTO TFA -; security initiatives; combating illicit financial flows; and customs-tax-cooperation, in particular the challenges and opportunities from a Customs perspective.

Members of the Council also recognized the critical role played by capacity building, research and the sharing of intelligence and information, as well as the necessity for enhanced international collaboration with businesses and all relevant agencies, and the importance of using data analysis and other technology-related trade management tools that would ensure better coordinated border management.

“Directors General of Customs have agreed on the road ahead,” said the WCO Secretary General, adding that, “their clear and helpful decisions will guide the Secretariat’s activities and work programmes, enabling it to deliver positive results and meet the expectations of the WCO’s worldwide membership, including Customs’ global partners.”

This year’s keynote speakers included Pierre Moscovici, the European Union’s Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, invited in the context of the 10th anniversary of EU’s accession to the WCO, and Inna Kuznetsova, President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of INTTRA, the ocean shipping industry’s largest electronic transaction platform, software and information provider, both of whom acknowledged Customs’ leading role in the international trade arena.

The EU Commissioner spoke  about the future of the EU Customs Union, touching on governance, the Union Customs Code (UCC), digital Customs and security, including ongoing and upcoming initiatives to fight terrorism, as well as the state of play with respect to the TFA, and better cooperation between Customs and tax authorities, including around the issue of e-commerce, while INTTRA’s President and COO, drawing on her experience in digitization of Ocean Shipping Industry, focused on the benefits that Customs can derive by enhancing and expanding its use of data analysis, the WCO’s theme for 2017, to digitize, analyze and plan.

Following the election of Mr. Enrique Canon, the Director General of Uruguay Customs, as Chairperson of the Council, the WCO Secretary General said, “I am convinced that we will benefit greatly from the new Chairperson’s experience, balanced approach and ability to lead strategic change, which is of immense value to the Members and Secretariat of the WCO.”

The WCO Secretary General also signed the following MoUs in the presence of delegates: one with Mexico Customs on the establishment of a WCO Regional Customs Laboratory in Mexico; another with Turkey Customs on the establishment of a WCO Regional Dog Training Centre (RDTC) in Ankara; and a final one with US Customs and Border Protection on the establishment of a WCO RDTC in the United States.

In addition, on the sidelines of the Council Sessions, the WCO Secretary General and China Customs signed a revised MoU regarding the WCO Regional Training Centre (RTC), expanding the RTC in Shanghai to also cover the Customs Training Centre in Xiamen, which is another example of the value attached to regional WCO bodies.

Delegates witnessed Burkina Faso deposit its instrument of accession to the revised International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures, known as the Revised Kyoto Convention; a global WCO standard for Customs modernization, which is recognized internationally as a key trade facilitation tool. Burkina Faso is the 111th Contracting Party.

The WCO also celebrated its 65th anniversary at a special reception; here it should be noted that the Organization had grown from 17 Members who attended the inaugural session in 1953 to over 180 Members in 2017, making the WCO the global centre of Customs excellence and expertise, and an important player in the international trade landscape. On this occasion, an alumni reunion of the WCO-Japan Career Development Programme was organized. The projects submitted by former Professional Associates as a precondition for participation at the reunion were evaluated by the WCO Senior Management and the Donor. The WCO Secretary General and the Director General of Japan Customs handed the awards to the winners during this anniversary event.

On a lighter note, the annual WCO Photo Competition was won by Kyrgyzstan Customs for a photo depicting a Customs officer checking the shipping documents of a truck at Torugart, the Kyrgyz-Chinese road border at 3,550 metres above sea level; the photos submitted by WCO Members will be displayed at WCO Headquarters and on the WCO Web site to mark the wide and varied contribution of Customs to society across the globe.

All the highlights of the 2017 Council Sessions will appear in the next issue of the WCO News magazine.

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