Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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  M. / Mr Michel Danet

The WCO,  shaping the future of global trade

By Mr Michel Danet, Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO)

The World Customs Organization (WCO) is the only intergovernmental organisation competent in Customs issues. It is particularly noted for its work in areas covering the development of global Customs standards, the simplification and harmonisation of Customs procedures, the security of the international trade supply chain, the initiation of programmes to combat Customs offences, trade facilitation, integrity, and sustainable Customs capacity building initiatives. In addition, the WCO is responsible also for the administration of the technical aspects of the World Trade Organization’s Agreements on Valuation and Rules of Origin.
Established in 1952 as the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC), the Council adopted the name “World Customs Organization” in 1994 after years of membership growth, to reflect more clearly its transition to a truly global institution. With its headquarters in Brussels (Belgium), today the WCO represents 172 Customs administrations across the globe at all stages of economic development that collectively process approximately 98% of world trade. Since June 2007 the European Communities has, as an interim measure, been granted rights akin to those of a WCO Member for matters falling within its competence.
As the global centre of Customs expertise, the WCO can rightly call itself the voice of the international Customs community. It has achieved international recognition for promoting the national economic and social well being of its members by aiming to create an honest, transparent and predictable Customs environment. This helps legitimate international trade to flourish, while at the same time making it possible for Customs administrations to take effective action against fraudulent activities that often have devastating economic and social affects.

“Enhancing the efficiency of Customs administrations”
The WCO’s primary mission is to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of Customs administrations in their day-to-day responsibilities of administering trade. Given the crucial role Customs can play in expanding trade, its effectiveness can have a genuine impact on economic competitiveness and foreign investor confidence.
To fulfil its mission, the WCO is involved in developing and administering various international instruments that facilitate the harmonised and uniform application of Customs procedures and systems governing the cross-border movement of people and goods. The Organization is also involved in the development of international standards to secure and facilitate global trade that contribute to worldwide initiatives to strengthen the trade supply chain from possible threats by international terrorists and organized criminal networks whilst facilitating the movement of legitimate goods. Additional activities include building Customs capacity which will assist WCO members to cope with the constraints and challenges posed by the modern trading environment by promoting customs modernisation through improvements in working methods, enhancing human resource management, implementing integrity programmes, and creating an environment charecterised by transparency and good governance practices.
The WCO further enhances its mission by encouraging customs-to-customs and customs-to-business partnerships through improved communication and exchange of information, and through training the private sector by arranging training workshops focused on a wide variety of topical customs subjects which empower business participants to deal with technical and operational problems more effectively and thereby facilitate their interaction with Customs administrations whilst promoting a more compliant culture. These outreach workshops are complimented by numerous international events open to Customs and all its stakeholders.
As a forum for dialogue and exchange of experiences between national Customs delegates, the WCO offers its members a range of international instruments and tools that actively support national Customs operations. The WCO Secretariat also promotes the work of Customs across the globe by building a network of effective partnerships with all global trade stakeholders including other relevant international and regional organisations, and the world business and academic communities. This partnership approach ensures that the WCO and its members receive valuable input from a wide variety of players in the international trade environment.

The WCO’s governing body – the Council – relies on the competence and skills of a Secretariat and a range of technical and advisory committees to accomplish its mission. Comprising over 100 international officials, technical experts and support staff of some 30 different nationalities, the Secretariat reflects the diversity of the WCO. The Council, which is currently chaired by Mr. Tapani Erling, the Director General of the Finnish Board of Customs, is supported by a Policy Commission which acts as a dynamic steering group, a Finance Committee which provides financial and budgetary advice, and an Audit Committee which provides strategic management support.
In addition, the Council has established an Integrity Sub-Committee (implementation of integrity best practices), a SAFE Working Group (implementation of the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade), a SECURE Working Group (development of standards to facilitate the fight against counterfeiting and piracy), a High Level Working Group on Capacity Building (monitoring the WCO’s overall Customs capacity building activities), and a Private Sector Consultative Group (a forum for the trade and business community to provide advice on the implementation of the SAFE Framework).
Technical work within the Secretariat is undertaken by a number of working bodies: the Harmonized System Committee (international tariff developments and classification); the Permanent Technical Committee (harmonisation and simplification of Customs procedures and IT in Customs); the Enforcement Committee (protection of society in the broadest sense); the Technical Committee on Customs Valuation (uniform interpretation and application of the WTO Valuation Agreement; and the Technical Committee on Rules of Origin (application of the WTO Agreement on Rules of Origin).

Key initiatives

The WCO will continue to promote its key initiatives during the year ahead. These include: promoting the application of the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global; strengthening the fight against counterfeiting and piracy by assisting Customs administrations through the WCO SECURE Programme to adapt their control techniques in order to successfully mount a challenge to counterfeiters and pirates, particularly those who trade in fake medicines, foodstuffs, automobile parts, children’s toys, and a host of other dangerous consumer products; and assisting WCO members to organise enforcement operations covering specific areas of concern such as drugs trafficking, environmental crime, the trade in precursors, and counterfeiting using the CEN communication tool which provides a secure environment for exchanging operational information and intelligence.
In addition, the WCO is committed to enhancing the ability of its members to negotiate trade facilitation issues at the national level whilst the WTO trade facilitation negotiations are in progress. The Organization will also continue its various Customs
capacity building activities, including the ongoing implementation of the WCO Columbus Programme, a grand capacity building initiative designed to assist WCO members to implement the SAFE Framework in co-operation with the business community. These initiatives are vital as they are aimed at equipping Customs authorities with new methods and enhanced operational instruments that will strengthen their role at the border and facilitate their trade administration activities.

Customs in the 21st Century
In preparing Customs administrations and their stakeholders for the challenges and opportunities that face the world of international trade, the WCO will continue to research and prepare a credible scenario of the Customs environment in the 21st Century as this will enable the Organization and its members to respond strategically, with confidence, and from a position of leadership in the future.
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