Regional workshops held to raise awareness of counterfeit COVID-19-related goods

16 abril 2021

On 8 April 2021, the World Customs Organization (WCO) successfully launched its first series of regional workshops aimed at improving Customs administrations’ awareness of counterfeit COVID-19-related goods.

This workshop brought together around 105 Customs officials from 26 countries in the WCO Asia/Pacific (A/P), Europe and North of Africa, Near and Middle East (MENA) regions, involving speakers from the UK Border Force, the U.S. National Intellectual Property Rights Center overseen by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the World Health Organization (WHO), INTERPOL and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) who exchanged views on how to efficiently combat the movement of counterfeit COVID-19-related goods.

In its opening remarks, the WCO Secretariat emphasized that Customs is the first line of defence at Members' borders. On the one hand, there is a need to facilitate the movement of the vaccines, while, on the other hand, it is important to protect citizens from counterfeit and illicit vaccines and from other types of counterfeit goods related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Customs has already played an essential role in protecting society from counterfeit, illicit and substandard goods such as vaccines.

Mr. Hidetoshi Aramaki, Director for International Technical Cooperation in the Customs and Tariff Bureau of Japan’s Ministry of Finance, mentioned in his remarks that the stable global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is expected to play a key role in efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. He also highlighted that Japan Customs has taken the situation very seriously, continuing to contribute financial and human resources in support of the WCO’s COVID-19-related initiatives.

At a time when many countries around the world are rolling out large-scale COVID-19 vaccination programmes, it is critical that Customs administrations be able to facilitate the cross-border movement of genuine vaccines, while looking out for fake vaccines and fake medical supplies.

During its 137th Session in December 2020, the WCO Council acknowledged the seriousness of the risks posed to the health and safety of citizens across the world during the global COVID-19 vaccine distribution process, and invited the WCO Secretariat and Members to take action; in this connection, the Council adopted a Resolution on the Role of Customs in Facilitating the Cross-Border Movement of Situationally Critical Medicines and Vaccines.

This series of workshops, organized under the WCO’s Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), Health and Safety Programme, represents the Organization’s response to the challenge of ensuring the full preparedness of WCO Members for the safe and seamless distribution of time- and temperature-sensitive vaccines, as well as preventing organized criminal syndicates from exploiting the situation by flooding markets with dangerous, substandard or counterfeit vaccines.