Seventh Global Review of Aid for Trade: WCO engages in discussions on e-commerce, TFA, latest technologies and gender equality and diversity

09 七月 2019

The WCO took an active part in the Seventh Global Review of Aid for Trade (A4T) which was held at the World Trade Organization (WTO) from 3 to 5 July in Geneva, Switzerland.  The Review seeks to further develop analysis on how trade can contribute to economic diversification and empowerment, with an emphasis on eliminating extreme poverty, particularly through the effective participation of women and young people.

The 2019 Review brought together over 1,000 participants from the public and private sectors across 84 different discussion sessions organized by the WTO, other international organizations and government authorities.  The WCO organized two of these sessions which focused, respectively, on gender integration in Aid-for-Trade facilitation (see related web article) and on forward-looking solutions for trade facilitation based on disruptive technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning, quantum computing and 5G.

When opening the second WCO session, entitled “Facilitating trade in the digital age: what does it mean for Customs”, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya highlighted that digitalization was enabling trade in a range of sectors and across goods and services, referring to the so-called "parcelization" of trade resulting from increased e-commerce.  To assist countries in dealing with this issue, he explained that the WCO had developed an E-Commerce Package bringing together standards and guidance material.  He also described how the use of the latest technologies could transform border management towards enhancing trade facilitation and enforcement capabilities and invited participants to consult the WCO Study Report on Disruptive Technologies.

The Secretary General was also invited to address the audience during a session on “Making e-commerce work for all” organized by the Government of Belgium, the International Trade Centre (ITC), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Bank Group.  The panel discussed the concerns expressed by many developing countries that e-commerce negotiations could lead to a restriction of their regulatory and policy space in the area of e-commerce and trade, without providing sufficient provisions to meet their specific needs.  The objective was to ensure that the voices of African countries, in particular, are heard and that the rules are shaped by all.

Opening the session, the WTO Director-General, Mr. Roberto Azevêdo, urged the international community to tackle the digital divide and ensure that e-commerce was a force for inclusion, stressing the importance of building the necessary frameworks and capacities to ensure participation by all.

Dr. Mikuriya pointed out that Customs was the primary agency at the border, thus facing the challenge of managing cross-border e-commerce transactions.  He reminded participants of the need to facilitate trade while ensuring compliance with safety, security and revenue requirements.  In this connection, he referred once again to the WCO E-Commerce Package and the need to ensure implementation of the standards and practices contained therein.  

The Secretary General also spoke at a session focusing on the inclusion of landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) in global trade.  Dr. Mikuriya emphasized the fact that implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) could contribute to reducing trading costs for LLDCs, especially in Africa where many countries lack direct access to the sea.  He also explained that the WCO had released Transit Guidelines, trained a pool of transit experts in different regions to provide technical assistance, and was in the process of collecting best practices to be shared shortly.

Last but not least, the WCO participated in a session on trade facilitation and the interconnection of the corridor networks for inclusive trade and economic diversification, organized by TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), the United Kingdom and Canada with the objective of showcasing the Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System (RECTS).  The Commissioner of Uganda Customs and Chairperson of the WCO Council, Mr. Dicksons C. Kateshumbwa, introduced the platform which enables some member countries of the East African Community (EAC) to monitor and view cargo in a coordinated manner, as it moves along what is known as the Northern Corridor, through the use of one particular type of electronic seal.  The WCO Secretary General pointed out that Time Release Studies carried out by EAC member countries with the help of the WCO showed that significant improvements had been made.  He further stated that the WCO was developing guidance on the use of e-seals and collecting practices, among which RECTS would feature.

Commissioner Kateshumbwa also spoke at other sessions to share Uganda’s experience of the interconnection of IT systems and gender empowerment. 

The WCO Secretary General also met Mr. Bambang Susantano, Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), to discuss areas of future cooperation, including trade facilitation, the use of technologies and the fight against cross-border movements of plastic waste.

About the Aid for Trade Global Review 2019