Building capacity to help Africa trade better

New Trade Facilitation Programme underway for Customs


New Trade Facilitation Programme underway for Customs

New Trade Facilitation Programme underway for Customs
Image credit: WCO

The World Customs Organisation (WCO) has announced that a new trade facilitation model, which will be open to all member countries, including Nigeria, would soon be unveiled.

The WCO is the governing body of all customs administrations in the world with about 180 member countries and headquarters in Brussels.

The secretary-general of the organisation, Kunio Mikuriya, disclosed the development while addressing delegates at an information session on supporting the implementation of the world trade organisation (WTO) agreement on trade facilitation, at the WTO Headquarters recently in Geneva Switzerland.

Mikuriya said the new trade facilitation programme is expected to be closely coordinated with the WTO and would be open to all WCO members, offering coherency, continuity, transparency and compatibility.

The need to improve trade facilitation whilst continuously strategising on ways to ensure import, export and transit trade is conducted amongst countries in a risk free manner has been one of the priorities of the WCO. The organisation is committed to ensuring optimum benefit for governments of member countries.

The event was organised with the objective of familiarising the WTO and other international organisation delegates based in Geneva with the work of the WCO in relation to implementation of the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (ATF). Over 80 delegates from the WCO member and observer countries as well as international organisations were attracted to the meeting where critical issues were discussed.

The WCO boss thanked the WTO for hosting the event even as he emphasised the history of the WCO/WTO cooperation and the WCO’s readiness to support the WTO Committee on Trade Facilitation in the same manner as it supports the Agreement on Customs Valuation and the Agreement on Rules of Origin.

The information session, which was moderated by the chairperson of the WCO working group on the ATF, Ms Gugu Dlamini Zwane, from the Swaziland Revenue Authority, provided an overview of the work carried out so far and the plans ahead as well as the technical assistance and capacity building methodology and deliverables.

Addressing the meeting, the WTO director-general, Mr Roberto Azevêdo, congratulated the WCO for establishing its working group on the ATF and stressed that the WTO secretariat will do all it can to support its work.

Azevedo also took the opportunity to welcome the WCO Dublin resolution which was issued in the days after the Bali ministerial and which underscored the WCO commitment to the efficient implementation of the ATF. Speaking further, Azevêdo added that the WTO was counting on the WCO to play a key role in assisting customs in this endeavour.

Meanwhile, the WCO and International Trade Centre (ITC) has concluded a memoradum of understanding (MoU) for the implementation of the WTO agreement on trade facilitation

The WCO secretary-general and the executive director of the ITC, Arancha González, concluded the MoU at the ITC headquarters recently as part of efforts to support the full implementation of the WTO ATF. According to a statement on the WCO official website, the implementation of the ATF will contribute to promote customs modernisation, reduce time and cost for border crossings, and enhance export competitiveness of the private sector, including small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

This is further expected to support economic growth and alleviation of poverty in view of the fact that the ITC works to increase the competitiveness of SMEs and improves the business environment for trade.

Remarking on the development, González assured that the ITC will help countries to remove international trade supply chain barriers in order to facilitate cross border transactions and improve the competitiveness of the private sector.

Being a member of the WCO, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) which is currently undergoing a massive modernisation exercise will to a large extent benefit from this measure. For his part, Mikuriya specifically underlined one of the WCO’s visions, leading modernisation and connectivity, stating that it will help to bridge the gap between the customs and business communities. He added that the WCO has developed the economic competitiveness package to assist customs administrations to contribute to enhancing national competitiveness.

The WCO and ITC have said that together they will develop greater synergy on trade facilitation by jointly providing technical assistance and capacity building to customs administrations as well as the private sector, in particular SMEs, taking into cognizance the importance of strategic planning. Both Mikuriya and González agreed to explore the concrete projects to support full implementation of the ATF based on the MoU. The MoU will also facilitate customs and business partnerships as well as contribute to economic growth, social protection and stability.

In a related development, the WCO has concluded a workshop on risk-based passenger selectivity for customs administrations in the Asia/Pacific region as part of its continued efforts aimed at capacity development for customs officers.

The workshop was organised following the identification in an annual needs assessment that risk-based passenger selectivity is a common challenge for many administrations. 33 representatives from 28 customs administrations in the Asia/Pacific region participated in the WCO regional workshop on Risk-based Passenger Selectivity earlier this month.

It was held at the WCO Regional Training Centre in Cheonan, Korea, and was organised in cooperation with the Korea Customs Service (KCS) and Asia/Pacific Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB A/P) with the sponsorship of the Japanese Customs Cooperation Fund (CCF).

The 5-day workshop covered the main elements of organisational risk management and before focusing on risk-based passenger selectivity, participants were taken through several elements of risk assessment, profiling and targeting, including information and intelligence.

During the opening remarks, the director-general of Customs Border Control Training Center of KCS (Regional Training Center), Mr Jung-il Seo, and representatives of the WCO and ROCB A/P highlighted the importance of adopting a holistic approach when implementing risk management. They also emphasised the relationship between risk-based selectivity and effective resource allocation, facilitation and control.

Some elements of risk management at the organisational level were covered throughout the workshop. Although the main focus was risk management at the operational level (risk assessment, profiling and targeting), with several syndicate group tasks, practical exercises, case studies and country presentations, the spotlight was put on passenger selectivity.

During the syndicate group tasks and country presentations, participants entered into in-depth discussions on how to identify high-risk passengers by utilising the methodology explained in the WCO Customs Risk Management Compendium. Case studies and practical exercises also contributed to deepening participants understanding of the topics.


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