WCO News – February 2021

This edition’s “Dossier” focuses on how Customs can bolster “Recovery, Renewal and Resilience”, the WCO’s theme for 2021, and includes several articles on the digitalization of procedures and the emergence of new digital ecosystems, an article on an impact assessment method using a stakeholder needs analysis, as well as another one on a methodology for using machine learning to identify transactions involving strategic goods.

In the “Panorama” section, China Customs offers some suggestions on how to combat waste trafficking more effectively, Brazil Customs presents its experience of conducting its first Time Release Study, and Oman Customs explains how it managed to accelerate the release of goods by rolling out a Single Window environment and signing service level agreements with regulatory agencies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the danger posed by products infringing quality and safety requirements intended to protect consumers and workers. In the “Focus” section of the magazine, we asked market surveillance authorities and Customs administrations to share their experience of controlling the compliance of imported products. To introduce the topic and give an overview of the different offences observed, we open this section with an article on Operation STOP. This global enforcement operation targeted illicit trade in medical products, especially those generally used to diagnose or treat COVID-19.

To discover the full content of this edition please visit the magazine website.

Korea’s Dog Training Centre certified as a WCO Regional Dog Training Centre

Korea Customs Service (KCS), represented by its Commissioner, Mr. Suk-Hwan Roh, and the World Customs Organization (WCO), represented by its Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, completed the signing process for a Memorandum of Understanding on establishing a WCO Regional Dog Training Centre (RDTC) in Incheon, Republic of Korea.

The new RDTC in Incheon is equipped with high-quality facilities, which include indoor and outdoor kennels, training buildings with simulation training zones and veterinary clinic, etc. Its experienced instructors will conduct professional detector dog training programmes for Customs officials responsible for canine-related duties in the region.

The Centre will serve as a hub for the region’s Customs administrations to share best practices and expertise, and will also provide assistance and advice to other administrations through detector dog training and procurement of detector dogs.

“Detector dogs are of paramount importance in Customs duties,” stressed Secretary General Mikuriya. “Thanks to the professional experts, first-rate facilities and specialized and tailor-made training programmes provided by the KCS, I am confident in the future success of the new RDTC,” he added.

Detector dogs are an ideal tool for screening people and goods in a timely manner, as they have one of the most acute senses of smell in the animal kingdom. This enables them to rapidly detect the presence of prohibited or regulated goods (including drugs, explosives, currency, CITES items, etc.), with minimal disruption to the movement of people and goods. Detector dogs are one of the most important operational resources for identifying and combating Customs fraud worldwide.

With a view to maintaining high standards and building a global network for canine enforcement, to date the WCO has certified 16 WCO RDTCs established in different regions. The goal of these RDTCs is to provide professional canine-related training and capacity building activities for Customs administrations in each of the respective regions and to facilitate cooperation between them.

Source: World Customs Organisation

German and Belgian Customs Officials seize 23 tonnes of cocaine

Germany and Belgium have seized 23 tonnes of cocaine in the biggest-ever haul of the drug in Europe, German customs said Wednesday.

“The enormous amount of cocaine would have brought in several billion euros (dollars) in street sales,” the customs office said in a statement.

German officers had discovered 16 tonnes of cocaine hidden in containers from Paraguay at the port of Hamburg on Feb. 12.

Joint investigations into the stash with Dutch officers led authorities to swoop on another 7.2 tonnes in cocaine at the port of Antwerp in Belgium, German customs said.

A 28-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday in the Netherlands in connection with both the German and Dutch hauls totaling 23 tonnes, it added.

Customs officers at the busy port in Hamburg had decided to take a closer look at the Paraguayan containers after noticing “clear irregularities” with its contents – tin cans that were meant to be filled with putty.

“Beyond a layer of genuine goods packed just behind the container door, numerous tin cans were in fact filled with other goods,” said customs.

Investigators ordered the containers unloaded, and found the cocaine stash in over 1,700 tin cans.

“This is the largest amount of cocaine ever seized in Europe and one of the largest single seizures worldwide,” German customs said, referring to the Hamburg haul.

In all, 102 tonnes of cocaine headed for the European continent were intercepted last year by an international law enforcement project co-implemented by the United Nations.

Source: Daily Sabah, 24 February 2021

Nigeria bans multiple cargo inspections in ports

The federal government has banned all agencies from conducting individual cargo inspection at the ports, noting that such inspections must be done jointly.

The Executive Secretary, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello disclosed this on Wednesday during a courtesy call to the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Chairman, Brigadier General Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd).

He said the regime of the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) recently approved has commenced with no provision for individual inspections by agencies, directing inspection agencies to assemble do joint inspection by 9 am.

“What causes delay is the lack of harmonisation of operating procedures of many agencies at the port. We want all agencies to be on the same page so the process is efficient. The manual says everyone should assemble at the port by 8:30 am and by 9:00 am, everyone does joint inspection. This will cut out delays, ensure efficiency, and promote ease of doing business” Mr. Bello said.

With this measure in place, the ports digitisation process must reach 90 per cent by this first quarter just as the government targets 24 hours operations at the ports.

“Some terminal operators have 98 per cent and others are coming up. Our target is that by the end of the first quarter, we should achieve 90 per cent digitalisation so you don’t need to go to the port to transact business,” he stated.

“We are also aiming to have 24 hours operations at the seaports just like the airports. We are doing it in conjunction with our sister agencies at the ports” he further stated.

The NDLEA Chairman, Brig. Gen. Marwa (rtd) pledged his support to the new reform but he added that the NDLEA will not compromise its duties in stopping illicit drugs from entering the country to destroy citizens.

Source: Daily Trust, Chris Agobi, 8 February 2021

ICC – Controlling the zone: balancing facilitation and control to combat illicit trade in the world’s free trade zones

Photo by Noel Broda on Unsplash

Herewith a 2020 update of the ICC BASCAP report assessing the environment and highlighting trends in counterfeiting and other forms of illicit trade facilitated within free trade zones.

The Risks

Free Trade Zones (FTZs) provide significant opportunities for legitimate business and play a critical role in global trade as well as economic growth for the host nation.  However, our updated research has continued to confirm that insufficient oversight remains a major enabler of illicit activities.  Since the publication of our previous 2013 report, there have not been vast improvements in limiting criminal activities within FTZs.  In fact, the Covid-19 pandemic has increased vulnerability for abuses by criminal actors who take advantage of supply chain shortages and increased demands as well as relaxed oversight often because of such things as quarantines that have softened Customs control.

Counterfeiters use transit or transhipment of goods, through multiple, geographically diverse FTZs for no other purpose than to disguise the illicit nature of the products. Once introduced into an FTZ, counterfeit goods may undergo a series of economic operations, including assembly, manufacturing, processing, warehousing, re-packaging, and re-labelling. Once completed, the goods can be imported directly to the national territory of the hosting state or re-exported to another country for distribution or to another FTZ, where the process is repeated.

Key recommendations:

Our 2020 report promotes a set of specific policy and legislative recommendations on how to preserve and expand the benefits of FTZs for legitimate traders and protect the public and honest businesses from predatory practices. These recommendations are based on a review of the international and national legal frameworks governing FTZs, including how they are implemented and enforced.

Suggested recommendations include:

  • empowering Customs with jurisdiction over day-to-day operations within FTZs
  • strengthening relationship between Customs and FTZs
  • clarifying and declaring that FTZs remain under the jurisdiction of the national Customs authority
  • enhancing data sharing between Customs and the private sector
  • strengthening national government adherence to international conventions and implementation of international standards
  • legislatively ensuring that strict penalties are in place, including criminal sanctions where appropriate, against perpetrators of illegal activities in FTZs
  • that manufacturers and shippers recognize and use the ICC World Chambers Foundation’s International Certificates of Origin (COs) Accreditation Chain which is a program that accredits chambers of commerce issuing COs wishing to guarantee their commitment to the highest level of quality, implementing transparent and accountable issuance and verification procedures. Accredited chambers will receive a distinctive internationally recognized quality classification, reinforcing their integrity and credibility as competent trusted third parties in the issuance of COs.

Additionally, the new document also provides specific recommendations such as drawing on international agreements, lessons learned from effective and ineffective national legislation, the experience of IP rights holders, and legislative and regulatory measures to enforce intellectual property right protection in FTZs.  These specific recommendations are delineated in the report for action by the World Customs Organization, World Trade Organization, national governments, and FTZ operators. Effective implementation of the measures delineated for each of these bodies will go a long way in securing FTZs from illicit traders.

Download the Document via this hyperlink

Source: International Chamber of Commerce

Joint WCO-ICAO Guiding Principles and Guidelines to enhance Air Cargo Security and Trade Facilitation

Today, the World Customs Organization (WCO) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) released their Joint WCO-ICAO Guiding Principles for Pre-Loading Advance Cargo Information and Joint WCO-ICAO Guidelines on Alignment of the Customs Authorized Economic Operator and Aviation Security Regulated Agent/Known Consignor Programmes. These Guiding Principles and Guidelines are a result of continuous joint efforts over the last 10 years, following serious threats and vulnerabilities to international trade supply chains.

“In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to facilitate safe and secure vaccine distribution, strong collaboration among Customs, Civil Aviation Authorities and the relevant stakeholders is highly recommended,” said the WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya. “WCO and ICAO Members are encouraged to make the best use of advance cargo information for risk assessment as well as to align partnership and security programmes to ensure secure and efficient air cargo supply chains,” he added.

With the new Joint WCO-ICAO Guiding Principles for Pre-Loading Advance Cargo Information (PLACI), another layer is being added to the multi-layered approach to Aviation Security in order to detect Improvised Explosive Devices/Improvised Incendiary Devices (IED/IID) in air cargo. These PLACI principles should not be used as a standalone method of Aviation Security (AVSEC) screening or air cargo security control, but rather to perform an additional assessment of the potential Aviation Security risks represented by a consignment.

These Joint Guiding Principles comprise several key and specific principles to meet the needs and capabilities of both regulators and industry, and provide guidance for the risk analysis process. Combined with intelligence and other information, PLACI consignment data enables regulators to perform an initial assessment of the potential risks posed by a consignment. The results of the initial assessment may also indicate the need for additional action.

In addition, the new Joint WCO-ICAO Guidelines on Alignment of the Customs Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) and AVSEC Regulated Agent/Known Consignor (RA/KC) Programmes seek harmonization and alignment between the WCO AEO and the AVSEC RA/KC Programmes, capitalizing on synergies and thus increasing efficiency, while also reducing duplication of efforts by regulators and burdens on trade.

These Guidelines aim to assist WCO and ICAO Members wishing to assess the similarities between their Customs and AVSEC security programmes, with the intention of further aligning them. This collaborative work should ultimately lead to simplification of procedures and eradication of duplicate security requirements and controls, to the benefit of the authorities and the airline industry. 

Joint WCO-ICAO Pamphlet

Source: WCO website, 16 February 2021

SARS – Massive Rhino Horn bust worth R53-million

SARS’ Customs unit made a bust of rhino horn with an estimated value of R53 172 000, in a shipment destined for Malaysia.

While conducting manifest profiling at the courier facilities, the Customs Detector Dog Unit at O.R.Tambo International Airport selected a suspicious shipment declared as ‘HP Cartridges Developers’. 

The three-piece shipment was taken to the X-ray scanner for non-intrusive inspection, where the image analysis reflected objects resembling the shape of rhino horns. The shipment was taken for physical inspection and upon inspection of the boxes, 18 pieces of rhino horn were found concealed in traditional clothing. The goods weighed 63kg. 

This is the fourth rhino horn bust by SARS Customs at the O.R.Tambo International Airport between July 2020 and February 2021. The overall weight of the rhino horn seized in these four cases is 277.30 kg with an estimated value of R 234 114 206.

The Customs officers immediately called the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (Hawks) to the scene, who confiscated the shipment for further investigation.

In his reaction to this massive seizure of the rhino horn, Commissioner Edward Kieswetter congratulated the Customs officers for their excellent work. He warned the perpetrators of crime that SARS, working with other law enforcement agencies, would spare no efforts in confronting and dealing decisively with any criminal malfeasance. Those that are involved in such egregious and merciless killing of rhinoceros and mutilating them will be brought to book.

He furthermore said, “Those who are determined to destroy the rich natural endowment of our country, which is a common treasure and heritage for all, that we should look after for future generations, will be met with unwavering commitment of our officers to enforce the law.” 

Source: South African Revenue Service, 4 February 2021

WCO – HS Classification for Vaccines and other associated medical supplies

In this new stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which vaccines are ready for distribution, the WCO Council has tasked the Secretariat to work with relevant international organizations to develop guidance materials to facilitate the cross-border movement of situationally critical medicines and vaccines, including highlighting existing HS classification for critical medicines, vaccines and associated medical supplies necessary for their manufacture, distribution and use.

The WCO’s Tariff and Trade Affairs Directorate, in close cooperation with the World Health Organization, has prepared a new HS classification reference for vaccines and the medical consumables normally used during the vaccination process, including the equipment used for their storage and transportation.

The New HS classification reference for vaccines and related supplies and equipment can be found in the WCO COVID-19 vaccines distribution dedicated page:  http://www.wcoomd.org/en/topics/facilitation/activities-and-programmes/natural-disaster/covid19-vaccines-distribution.aspx

http://www.wcoomd.org/-/media/wco/public/global/pdf/topics/facilitation/activities-and-programmes/natural-disaster/covid-19-list-for-vaccines/hs-classification-reference-vaccines-english.pdf?la=en

Source: WCO, 29 January 2021

International Customs Day 2021

Once again, the Customs community comes together, united in celebrating International Customs Day, which officially falls on 26 January of each year. This special day enables WCO Members, the WCO Secretariat and Customs’ worldwide partners to dedicate themselves to taking forward a particular theme. Thus, throughout 2021, under the slogan “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain,” the Customs community will be focusing on emerging from the global pandemic and support people and businesses by strengthening the global supply chain, reinforcing collaboration, harnessing technology and putting “people” at the centre of the transformation process.

Indeed, as Customs will be moving to reconstruction in the wake of COVID-19, Members will be invited to embrace digital transformation at the borders, paying particular attention to automation, the use of innovative technologies, and the adoption of collaborative approaches with all stakeholders along the supply chain.

Customs, being uniquely positioned and mandated at borders, can contribute to a sustainable supply chain in the following ways:

  • Reinforcing collaboration to drive the Recovery process. The economic impact of the pandemic on companies has been colossal, with considerable disruption of global supply chains. The herculean task of reconstruction cannot be undertaken in isolation, and the expertise of all border agencies and stakeholders will be a decisive factor. Customs will be called upon to demonstrate its leadership during this process, at the national and international levels. The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that coordinated border management is possible, efficient, and can be further institutionalized at international and national levels. The sound implementation of the SAFE Framework of Standards, including the AEO standards and cooperation with other government agencies, appears to be a relevant focus in this context. Given the increase in e- commerce observed during the COVID-19 period, it would be timely for Members to implement the WCO E- Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce in order to address security and facilitation in the context of this emerging supply chain trend, in close collaboration with stakeholders.
  • Embracing advanced technologies to enable Renewal rather than return to how things were before. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of major innovative and technological concepts which the WCO has been promoting for years. These include all-digital and paperless clearance methods, and the use of technology for implementing effective controls and facilitating, enhancing and accelerating processes. Irrespective of the pandemic, Customs administrations have been sensitized – through specialized forums and conferences – about thebenefits that can be reaped from the integration of technologies based on the use of big data, telematics and the Cloud into Customs operations. Building on the lessons learned, Customs administrations should look at the way goods are cleared at borders from a fresh perspective. Non-intrusive inspection devices, blockchain, artificial intelligence, sensors and connected objects, and other technological advances offer tangible benefits in terms of collecting, combining, sharing and analysing data, and these benefits should be maximized.
  • Putting “people” at the centre of change for a Resilient and sustainable supply chain. In order to address the vulnerability of Customs to systemic risks such as pandemics, Customs administrations will be called upon to build on the lessons learned and ensure that no one is left behind as we move towards a deeper transformation. To create greater resilience, “people” should be at the centre of the recovery model. Citizens around the globe have changed their daily lives drastically to adapt to the new reality. By the same token, Customs are called upon to rethink and adapt the way they operate, and enhance the preparedness of their staff through awareness raising and capacity building for the provision of a professional service. At the same time, resilience cannot be achieved without integrity, diversity and inclusion. A lack of integrity in Customs can distort trade and investment opportunities, undermine public trust in government administration and ultimately jeopardize the wellbeing of citizens, which in times of recovery could prove to be a recipe for failure.

The WCO will continue to provide guidance, help to share best practices and information, and deliver capacity building and technical assistance support to Members for the achievement of the above goals.

As in previous years, I am fully convinced that Customs administrations and the wider Customs community will rise to the occasion, fully committed to actively promoting their efforts and activities aimed at bolstering “Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain” that includes sharing relevant practices and activities with others at WCO meetings and in key WCO publications.

Wishing you all a happy International Customs Day!

Dr. Kunio Mikuriya

WCO Secretary General

26 January 2021

Fate of a Ham Sandwich

Dutch TV news has aired footage of customs officers confiscating ham sandwiches from drivers arriving by ferry from the UK under post-Brexit rules banning personal imports of meat and dairy products into the EU.

Officials wearing high-visibility jackets are shown explaining to startled car and lorry drivers at the Hook of Holland ferry terminal that since Brexit, “you are no longer allowed to bring certain foods to Europe, like meat, fruit, vegetables, fish, that kind of stuff.”

To a bemused driver with several sandwiches wrapped in tin foil who asked if he could maybe surrender the meat and keep just the bread, one customs officer replied: “No, everything will be confiscated. Welcome to Brexit, sir, I’m sorry.”

The ban came into force on New Year’s Day as the Brexit transition period came to an end, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) saying travellers should “use, consume, or dispose of” prohibited items at or before the border.

“From 1 January 2021 you will not be able to bring POAO (products of an animal origin) such as those containing meat or dairy (eg a ham and cheese sandwich) into the EU,” the Defra guidance for commercial drivers states.

The European commission says the ban is necessary because meat and dairy products can contain pathogens causing animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth or swine fever and “continue to present a real threat to animal health throughout the union”.

Dutch customs also posted a photograph of foodstuffs ranging from breakfast cereals to oranges that officials had confiscated in the ferry terminal, adding: “Since 1 January, you can’t just bring more food from the UK.”

The customs service added: “So prepare yourself if you travel to the Netherlands from the UK and spread the word. This is how we prevent food waste and together ensure that the controls are speeded up.”

Source: The Guardian, John Henley, 11 January, 2021

WCO – The full E-Commerce Package is now available online

Picture courtesy – Unsplash

Following the adoption by the December 2020 Policy Commission and Council of key documents forming part of the WCO E-Commerce Package, the WCO web-site now features the complete set of tools supporting the implementation of the Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce (E-Commerce FoS).

The documents endorsed by the December 2020 Policy Commission and Council are “Reference Datasets for Cross-Border E-Commerce”, “Revenue Collection Approaches”, “E-Commerce Stakeholders: Roles and Responsibilities”, a document on a PTC decision on the E-Commerce FoS update/maintenance mechanism, and the first edition of the Compendium of Case Studies on E-Commerce. In addition, the Policy Commission and Council took note of the progress in the area of cross-border e-commerce, including the finalization by the Permanent Technical Committee in June 2020 of key performance indicators for possible monitoring and evaluation of the E-Commerce FoS implementation. 

The WCO E-Commerce FoS was endorsed by the Policy Commission and Council in June 2018, while the June 2019 Council sessions witnessed the endorsement of the WCO E-Commerce Package, with the exception of three Annexes to the E-Commerce FoS Technical Specifications.

The E-Commerce FoS provides 15 baseline global standards with a focus on the exchange of advance electronic data for effective risk management and enhanced facilitation of the growing volumes of cross-border small and low-value Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) shipments, through simplified procedures with respect to areas such as clearance, revenue collection and return, in close partnership with E-Commerce stakeholders. It also encourages the use of the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) concept, non-intrusive inspection (NII) equipment, data analytics, and other cutting-edge technologies to support safe, secure and sustainable cross-border E-Commerce.

The E-Commerce Package contains Technical Specifications to the E-Commerce FoS, definitions, E-Commerce Business Models, E-Commerce Flowcharts, Implementation Strategy, Action Plan and Capacity Building Mechanism, which have now been supplemented by the documents on Reference Datasets for Cross-Border E-Commerce, Revenue Collection Approaches and E-Commerce Stakeholders: Roles and Responsibilities.
The document on Reference Datasets for Cross-Border E-Commerce is an evolving, non-binding document that can serve as a guide to WCO Members and relevant stakeholders for possible pilots and implementation of the E-Commerce FoS. The Revenue Collection Approaches document has been designed to describe existing revenue collection models with the objective of providing a better understanding thereof. The document on E-Commerce Stakeholders: Roles and Responsibilities provides a clear description of the roles and responsibilities of various E-Commerce stakeholders for transparent and predictable cross-border movement of goods, and does not place any additional obligations on stakeholders.

The first edition of the Compendium of Case Studies on E-Commerce compiles seventeen case studies and supports the WCO Membership with practical examples of how individual Members address priority issues, such as exchange of advance electronic data, facilitation, safety, security and revenue collection (including de minimis levels).

For more information please visit http://www.wcoomd.org/en/topics/facilitation/instrument-and-tools/frameworks-of-standards/ecommerce.aspx

New Version of the WCO DM (version 3.10.0) released

The WCO, through the Data Model Projects Team (DMPT), maintains the WCO Data Model (WCO DM) and produces annual releases to keep the WCO DM up to date. The maintenance processes were undertaken in accordance with the WCO DM Maintenance Procedure that enables WCO DM users, including WCO Members, partner government agencies, and other international organizations to submit Data Maintenance Requests (DMRs) to the DMPT for its consideration. From September 2019 (55th Meeting) to June 2020 (57th Meeting) the DMPT has received 33 DMRs submitted by Members and approved 21. All of those approved DMRs were incorporated in the WCO DM and released as version 3.10.0. 

The WCO DM version 3.10.0 is an iteration of the overall version 3 series. The version maintains the core scope of version 3 datasets, which cover not only data requirements for Customs import/export/transit procedures, but also Customs’ partner government agencies in the context of a Single Window environment for supporting regulatory digital collaboration. As such, version 3.10.0 of the WCO DM consists of datasets that are useful to facilitate submission of regulatory data requirements by traders (i.e., Business to Government (B2G) Declaration, such as import declaration, cargo report, transit declaration, etc.); electronic certification (i.e., Licences, Permits, Certificates, and other kinds of electronic documents – LPCO); regulatory notifications or responses (G2B; and Inter-Governmental data exchange (i.e., INTERGOV – G2G). Being a part of the version 3 series, the new version also maintains backward compatibility to the previous versions.

Further information on the WCO DM can be found on http://wcoomd.org/DataModel. The publication packages of the WCO DM could be found in its e-Handbook1. Any inquiry on how to access the publication package could be addressed to dm@wcoomd.org.

1http://www.wcoomd.org/en/topics/facilitation/instrument-and-tools/tools/data-model/ehandbook.aspx

Source: World Customs Organisation

UK and US sign Customs agreement to ensure continued smooth trade

Businesses trading with the United States will be able to continue to trade smoothly following EU exit, after the UK and US governments agreed a deal to continue Customs cooperation.

The bilateral Customs Assistance Agreement was signed by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman and US Ambassador Robert Wood Johnson today at a signing ceremony at the US embassy in London.

The agreement will allow customs authorities to continue to cooperate, including sharing data, to tackle customs fraud, maintaining the current strong relationship between US and UK Customs authorities.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman said:

  • This is an important agreement that ensures continuity post EU exit, and demonstrates the strength of the US-UK customs relationship.
  • This deal will allow us to continue to cooperate in combatting customs offences by sharing information and good practice, and provides the legal underpinning for schemes to ease trade flows for importers and exporters.

US Ambassador Robert Wood Johnson said:

  • Every single day, the U.S. and the UK work side by side to stop criminals trafficking illegal goods across the Atlantic – from guns, to drugs, to illegal wildlife products and even counterfeit medicine.
  • This Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement means that after Brexit, our investigators can keep sharing information to stop criminals in their tracks and keep people in both our countries safe.

It will also provide the legal basis for the Authorised Economic Operator Mutual Recognition Arrangement, which will ensure that people and businesses will continue to benefit at their respective borders.

The Authorised Economic Operator scheme is an internationally recognised quality mark allowing a business customs benefits at the border, in recognition that its role in the international supply chain is secure and that it meets international standards on customs control procedures.

Source: UK Government, 16 December 2020

E-Commerce: Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) Update

The importance of developing global digital trade rules has never been clearer. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation, bringing about a surge in online activities. E-commerce will be critical to the global economic recovery. The Joint Statement Initiative on E-commerce (JSI) is an opportunity for the WTO to respond to this urgent need.

There has been encouraging progress in the JSI since negotiations were launched in 2019. Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, co-conveners Australia, Japan and Singapore have ensured that work continues in virtual and hybrid formats. The number of participants in the initiative has grown to 86 WTO Members, collectively accounting for over 90 per cent of global trade and representing all major geographical regions and levels of development.

Consolidated Negotiating Text

JSI participants have developed a consolidated negotiating text that captures progress so far and will form the basis of the next stage of negotiations. The consolidated text was circulated among participants on 7 December 2020.

The consolidated text is based on Members’ proposals. These proposals cover the following themes:

  • enabling electronic commerce;
  • openness and e-commerce;
  • trust and e-commerce;
  • cross-cutting issues;
  • telecommunications;
  • market access; and
  • scope and general provisions.

We have been able to advance the negotiations, guided by the objective of achieving WTO-plus outcomes that deliver meaningful benefits for businesses and consumers. Highlights include the good progress made in small groups on issues such as e-signatures and authentication, paperless trading, customs duties on electronic transmissions, open government data, open internet access, consumer protection, spam and source code, among others. Proponents of services market access commitments have also developed a possible framework for negotiations on these issues.

Provisions that enable and promote the flow of data are key to a high standard and commercially meaningful outcome. Discussions on these issues are ongoing and will intensify from early 2021. Japan and Singapore hosted an information session on data flows and localisation rules in November 2020, involving negotiators and the private sector, to build better understanding and support for strong commitments.

Source: World Trade Organisation, 20 December 2020

Draft One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) policy to be released for public comment

Government will release its draft one-stop border post (OSBP) policy for public comment during the first quarter of 2021, after Cabinet approved the draft policy during its meeting this week.

In a statement, Cabinet said that the OSBP policy would give effect to the framework adopted in 2018.

The policy sought to harmonise the movement of people and goods between South Africa’s land ports of entry and its neighbouring countries, while also addressing the congestion that resulted in costly trade delays and frustrated travellers.

“At a continental level, the policy contributes to the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative, which advances interconnectivity amongst African countries to address infrastructure deficits and boost intra-Africa trade,” the Cabinet statement read.

The same statement also highlighted the fact that the African Union (AU) would be holding an extraordinary summit on December 5 and 6 on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The summit was being held to advance preparations ahead of the start of trading under the AfCFTA on January 1, 2021. Trading under the regime was meant to start in mid-2020, but was delayed as a result of the Covid-19 lockdowns implemented in many of the countries that had ratified the agreement.

Cabinet said that the AfCFTA held “enormous” potential benefits for South Africa and could serve as a catalyst to economic growth and investment in the country.

“The free-trade area opens our exports of goods and services to a market of more than 1.2-billion people. As chair of the AU, South Africa has been at the forefront of driving the implementation of the AfCFTA.”

Cabinet added that the agreement would advance economic integration and strengthen efforts towards peace and stability.

Worryingly, moves to liberalise trade was taking place against a renewed flare-up in attacks on truckers in South Africa, with foreign drivers being targeted by groups claiming that these drivers were taking away work opportunities for South Africans.

Cabinet “strongly condemned” what it termed the lawlessness affecting the road freight industry and commended recent arrests in Gauteng.

“While we understand the frustrations at the violation of immigration laws by some companies, violence is not the solution. Cabinet calls on all affected people to submit their concerns about the freight transport industry to relevant structures instead of resorting to violence.”

The statement also confirmed that Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi was leading a team of Ministers set up to deal with this matter.

That team was expected to submit a concrete proposal to Cabinet to address all disputes affecting the industry. 

Related information

One- Stop Border Posts Progress in Africa

One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) Sourcebook, 2nd edition (Tralac)