Posts by Mike Poverello

I have spent the best part of 28 years in the service of South African Customs, and a further 5 years as a free-lance consultant to the customs industry as well as an advisor on several customs systems modernisation programmes with international ICT and consulting firms between 1998 and 2002. Like many of my peers and numerous colleagues worldwide, "customs" is not another government department, but an institution which has as much a 'corporate identity' as it is an arm of government. Perhaps, I'm guilty of nostalgia at times gone by, but it nevertheless concerns me what is happening to so many customs administrations. First, many have by government decree merged into what is otherwise known as a 'Revenue Authority', with some success - as is the case with Customs in South Africa. A more recent development sees the customs being removed from its traditional 'treasury' base into 'Border Security Agencies'. Some fortunate administrations appear to have retained their independance which makes the organisational mandate and objectives more focussed and attainable. Through this 'blog' I wish to share my experiences and encourage those of you of like mind to collaborate.

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)

US$300m upgrade planned for Beitbridge border post

The Zimborders Consortium has secured nearly US$300 million for the upgrade and modernisation of Beitbridge border post, the country’s busiest inland port of entry and one of the region’s key transit points, the company has revealed.

The Zimborders Consortium is made up of a group of Zimbabweans, South Africans, international entrepreneurs and financial institutions and experts.

The project, to be implemented under a Public Private Partnership with the Government, will be privately funded with a 17 and half years’ operating concession period following the completion of the construction works expected within two years.

“We are pleased to have received the support of such a wide range of financial institutions on this critical infrastructure project for the entire region,” Mr Francois Diedrechsen, chief executive of the Zimborders Consortium said.

“Beitbridge is one of busiest border posts in Africa, which not only connects Zimbabwe and South Africa but also serves as the transit point for the majority of north-south trade in Southern Africa. We have the ideal team to ensure the successful construction and long-term management of the concession and are ready to start construction.”

The project will include a major upgrade of the entire border post including roads, ICT infrastructure as well as the construction of a number of social projects to improve the town of Beitbridge’s critical infrastructure including a fire station, residential buildings, a sewerage dam, civil services and new water reservoirs.

“As a Zimbabwean native, this part of the world is especially close to my heart.

“The Beitbridge project is a fantastic development for the trade that supports the region’s economies,” said Mr Glynn Cohen, executive chairman of the Zimborders Consortium.

“The significant waiting times being experienced currently due to ageing infrastructure will be significantly reduced following the completion of the project, thereby facilitating an easier flow of goods and people across southern Africa, be it for tourism, private or business purposes.”

Research has shown that Southern Africa has witnessed an increase in the volume of commercial and private cross-border traffic.

This has put pressure on inland ports of entry as well as sea ports with the Beitbridge border post handling the largest volume of traffic in Southern Africa.

However, there had been no significant infrastructure development in the past decade. Incidences of smuggling and other illegal activities have increased. The existing infrastructure fails to contain the volume of traffic, enabling travellers to evade duty payment.

The project’s debt funding has been provided by various South African commercial banks and international development finance institutions, demonstrating their commitment to regional growth, with equity also provided by several investors.

The concession contract was initially awarded in 2018 following a competitive tender process, which was run according to international best practice.

These developments for Beitbridge come as South Africa is looking to Zimbabwe for resources for its proposed Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and this might include transfer of water from dams such as Zhove Dam and Tugwi-Mukosi. The Musina-Makhado SEZ (MMSEZ) is located in the vicinity of the Beitbridge Border Post, which is one of the busiest ports of entry to South Africa and a gateway to the South African Development Community (SADC) countries.

Mr Lehlogonolo Masoga, CEO of Musina-Makhado, recently was quoted by the Global Africa Network saying the MMSEZ has the potential to become an inland inter-modal terminal, facilitated by its anchoring position along the North-South Corridor, and directly connecting to the country’s major ports through both N1 road and the Johannesburg-Musina railway line, for the trans-shipment of sea cargo and manufactured goods.

In the interview back in August this year, Mr Masoga said the MMSEZ will have an energy and metallurgical complex that will include the following plants: coal power, coke, ferrochrome, ferromanganese, pig iron, carbon steel, stainless steel, lime, silicon-manganese, metal silicon and calcium carbide.

This will be complemented by the logistics hub, agro-processing centre, light-to-medium manufacturing industries, SMME incubation centre, retail centres, hotels and residential amenities.

South Africa, however, does not have adequate resources for the MMSEZ and will look to neighbouring countries including Zimbabwe.

Responding to questions in the South African Parliament back in June 2020, Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, said current and potential source mines for input raw materials for the MMSEZ “have been identified in various Provinces of South Africa, and neighbouring countries like Zimbabwe and Botswana”.

“Other countries like Zimbabwe are also potential supply areas for coal and ferro chrome at which the stricter environmental standards across the two countries shall be applied as per standard adopted international practice,” said Minister Sisulu.

Source: Zimbabwe Herald, 9 December 2020

Australian Border Force launches blockchain trial with TradeTrust

The Australian Border Force (ABF) started a blockchain trial with Singapore Customs and the Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) for the digitalization of cross-border trade processes. The tests will use both the ABF-developed Intergovernmental Ledger (IGL) and IMDA’a TradeTrust.While one of TradeTrust’s objectives is to enable interoperability, it wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the announcement.

ABF’s trial will initially test digital verification for electronic Certificates of Origin the blockchain platforms and gather feedback from participants on their experience, a document with information regarding the product’s destination and country of export. Typically customs departments rely on this to assess import duties. The trial’s outcomes will be shared in the National Blockchain Roadmap’s Discovery Report

“In addition to our efforts internationally, this initiative will incorporate paperless trading and secure, digital exchange of trade information as part of the future architecture and design of an Australian Trade Single Window,” said Michael Outram, ABF Commissioner.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group, and financial institutions in Singapore, such as ANZ will also be involved in the project. 

The Australian government recently announced the Simplified Trade Agenda, which aims to reform and digitize trade compliance processes. The Department of Agriculture is already working with Singapore on paperless trading for agricultural trade. ABF’s trial is another step towards the Agenda’s end goal. 

Meanwhile, the TradeTrust initiative was launched by Singapore’s government over two years ago with the purpose of strengthening Singapore’s competitiveness in international trading. Ultimately its goal is to enable interoperability for trade documentation. It has broad aims that include legal harmonization, developing standards as well as providing open-source software solutions.

Ten months ago, global organizations, including the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), signed a cooperation agreement to develop the TradeTrust blockchain framework. 

Source: Ledger Insights, 26 November, 2020

WCO – HS Codes for HFCs

The WCO participated in the virtual side event, organized by UNEP OzonAction, at the 32nd Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.  The event aimed to inform participants about how the WCO Recommendation can help implement national measures to identify hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) before the new international Harmonized System codes come into force.

The event, held 24 November 2020 and attended by 78 participants, addressed a major issue for countries.  One of the important requirements of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol is that an import and export licencing system for hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) needs to be in place by 1/1/2021 at the latest, in each country that is Party to the Amendment.

To enable a licencing system to function effectively, governments need to be able to monitor and record imports and exports of each specific HFC. Import and export statistics are normally collected by customs officers using the Harmonized System. 

The HS will be amended in 2022 to incorporate specific subheadings for the most commonly traded HFCs and their mixtures. However, until the HS is amended in 2022, all HFCs are contained in a single HS code which does not allow differentiation of individual chemicals or mixtures. 

This side event provided an overview of the issue and explained a proactive interim approach, recommended by the WCO, to open national subheadings under the existing international HS codes to identify specific HFCs until 2022.

A technical officer from Tariff and Trade Affairs (Nomenclature) explained the classification of HFCs in the current HS 2017 and the changes to be implemented in 2022.  He also explained how the “WCO Recommendation on the insertion in national statistical nomenclatures of subheadings to facilitate the collection and comparison of data on the international movement of substances controlled by virtue of the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer” could be implemented by Regions or individual countries.

Practical examples of the implementations of the WCO Recommendation at regional and national levels were given by representatives of the European Commission and the Oceania Customs Organization.   

Countries were encouraged to expeditiously insert additional national subheadings for HFCs and HFC-containing mixtures, as guided by the WCO Recommendation, to ensure a proper implementation of the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol. 

Related information –

Data is King!

Two recent articles reaching my desk reiterate the importance of clean and standardised Customs data. Without this, any real benefits to be derived from the latest and future technologies will not be fully achieved. Downstream, a country’s economy depends on this data for accurate analysis, forecasting and policy-making. Similarly, the business community relies on accurate information to assist in better business and investment decisions.

During the 15th PICARD Conference held during 23-26 November 2020, ‘World Customs Journal Special Edition’ was introduced. The first paper of the special edition is based on the keynote speech which was given at the 14th PICARD Conference in October 2019 titled “Data Science: Policy Implications for Customs”.

The paper referred to is titled –

“If algorithms dream of Customs, do customs of cialsdreamofalgorithms?A manifesto for data mobilisation in Customs

The Abstract of the document reads as follows –

“Governance by data is a growing global trend, supported by strong national public policies whose foundation is open data, artificial intelligence and decision-making supported by algorithms. Despite this trend and some technical advances, Customs face obstacles in deploying ambitious data use policies. This article describes these challenges through recent experience in some Customs administrations and considers the technical and ethical issues speci c to all law enforcement agencies in the context of customs missions, to open paths for research and propose policy recommendations for a better use of customs data.”

The second matter is perhaps more directed towards Africa. TRALAC Newsletter, of October 2002 titled “Trade and Related Matters discusses the importance of data, specifically now with the introduction of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in January 2021.

The article considers more than just Customs trade data relating to goods. It envisages trade in services data as just as important to ensure a holistic approach –

“Trade-related data includes not only recorded values and volumes of goods trade among countries, but also data on services trade, non-tariff measures and barriers, tariffs, informal trade, trade restrictiveness, macro-economic conditions (like gross domestic product), micro-economic data (industry/firm-level data including employment, sales, profits and prices) and investment. This data is utilised by governments to make public policy decisions including the formulation of industrial, agriculture, trade and economic growth policies, strategies and regulations; trade negotiations strategies; merger and acquisition reviews; assessments of anti-competitive practices and determinations in trade remedy cases and applications for changes in tariffs. Businesses use trade information, such as tariffs in destination markets, applicable non-tariff measures, transportation costs and trade restrictiveness in combination with macro-economic indicators, firm-level data and market information to make investment, trade and market development decisions, and also to lodge trade remedy and tariff review applications and to inform their participation in public-private forums.”

The Newsletter continues to explain the notable improvements in data and reporting oer the last decade –

“Although trade and trade-related data has various uses, it needs to be useful, reliable and accurate information which is publicly available (except in the case of confidential information). This is the area where most African countries have historically fallen short although there has been some significant progress over the last decade. Initially, African trade data was only available on subscription databases and only for a select number of countries (like South Africa, Kenya and Egypt) and limited to trade in goods. There was a lack in published tariff schedules and data pertaining to non-tariff measures, investment, informal trade and services. In recent years, the availability of some data has improved significantly, especially for goods trade.

  • African countries are now increasingly publishing their statistics on websites of national statistics authorities and notifying their national data to the United Nations (UN). This data includes data on formal goods trade, aggregate services trade, non-tariff measures, tariffs, investment and some market information. The quality of the data has also improved as most countries now extensively verify the data prior to publication and submission. Increased access enables organisations like the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and International Trade Centre (ITC) to obtain, collate and publish trade data in databases like the ITC TradeMap and MacMap and the WTO trade portal.
  • As part of the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, many countries are establishing trade portals. Southern and eastern African countries that already have functioning portals include Seychelles, Eswatini, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. Some portals contain detailed information on import and export requirements by specified product, sanitary and phytosanitary requirements, port of entry and applicable tariffs. The trade portals of countries in east Africa, including Uganda and Rwanda provide details of import or export processes including the trade costs such as inspection charges, and indicate the waiting time to complete the different steps.
  • Once fully operational, the African Trade Observatory (ATO) will contribute significantly to the availability of African trade data and capacity building. The ATO will collect and analyse trade and trade-related qualitative and quantitative data and information, establish a database for African trade; monitor implementation and evaluate the implementation process and impact of the AfCFTA and the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-Africa Trade (BIAT); and equip national governments and businesses to analyse and use of trade and related data.
  • There is increasing awareness of the effect of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) on intra-Africa trade. More information is available in the public domain through industry/product/sector studies, the trade cost database of the World Bank and the online non-tariff barrier mechanisms of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area, the Borderless Alliance (west Africa) and the new AfCFTA mechanism.
  • Informal trade is recognised as a major component of intra-Africa trade and this is not captured in formal trade statistics. There are a number of initiatives to gather data on informal cross-border trade (ICBT), including studies by UNECAand ongoing work by the Bank of Uganda which has been conducting surveys and reporting ICBT data since 2005.

Although there have been improvements in intra-Africa trade data, there is room for improvement.”

WCO Publishes HS 2022 Correlation Tables

The WCO has released the HS 2022 Correlation Tables.

The Harmonized System Committee (HSC) completed its examination of the correlations prepared by the Secretariat at its 66th Session in October 2020. Upon the adoption of the HSC/66 Report on 13 November 2020, the Correlation Tables were cleared by the HSC for release on the WCO website.

While not legal instruments, the Correlation Tables have become essential tools for Members and the wider trade community in preparing for the introduction of a new edition of the HS. These tables provide guidance on the correlations between the Seventh Edition of the Harmonized System (HS), which comes into force on 1 January 2022 and the current HS 2017 (Sixth Edition) of the HS. There are two tables released.

Table І establishes the correlation between the 2022 version and the 2017 version of the HS. It also includes remarks against many of the correlations, briefly specifying the nature of the goods transferred and, where appropriate, referencing other relevant amended legal provisions in the HS.

Table ІІ establishes the correlation starting from the 2017 version to the 2022 version. As a simple mechanical transposition of Table І, it does not include a reproduction of the remarks.

Access the Correlation Tables here!

Source: World Customs Organisation, 13 November 2020

USA & Singapore – Letter of Intent to Explore Single Window Connectivity

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Singapore Customs signed a historic letter of intent today that will enable closer cooperation in the areas of trade facilitation, revenue protection and risk management.

Executive Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Trade Brenda Smith signed the letter of intent in Washington, DC on behalf of CBP and Deputy Director-General Lim Teck Leong signed the letter of intent in Singapore on behalf of Singapore Customs.

The Letter of Intent to Explore Single Window Connectivity between Singapore’s Networked Trade Platform (NTP) and the U.S. Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) formalizes the United States’ and Singapore’s commitment to sharing trade data and to exploring the possible connection of the two countries’ national Single Windows for trade facilitation. Single Windows are electronic systems that automate and expedite the processing of import and export data by allowing traders to input standardized information in a single entry point to fulfill all import and export requirements. In doing so, Single Windows reduce costs, enhance accountability and improve collaboration among government agencies and the trade community.   

“We value the opportunity for transparency and cooperation that a shared Single Window will bring,” said Executive Assistant Commissioner Smith. “Government-to-government data sharing is rapidly becoming an important component of efficient and secure trade, and CBP looks forward to working with Singapore Customs on this forward thinking approach to trade facilitation.”

“The signing of this letter of intent signifies the first step towards trade data connectivity between the two Customs administrations, and reinforces our commitment to maintain the security of international supply chains, while facilitating legitimate trade,” said Deputy Director-General Lim. 

The letter of intent follows the successful negotiation of the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement in 2004 and builds on the Authorized Economic Operator-Mutual Recognition Agreement and the Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement concluded by CBP and Singapore Customs in 2014. These efforts support the principles, standards and objectives of the World Customs Organization Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade.

The collaboration between CBP and Singapore Customs complements the United States’ continued engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Single Window Steering Committee on trade facilitative data exchange and Single Window connectivity/interoperability. Singapore is an active member of ASEAN and the ASEAN Single Window. 

In 2019, two-way trade in goods between the United States and Singapore totaled $57.6 billion, making Singapore the United States’ 17th largest trading partner and its second-largest trading partner in ASEAN. 

Source: US Customs and Border Protection, 10 November 2020

TradeLens – Youredi to offer data connectivity services between supply chain entities

Building on the TradeLens network connectivity Youredi has provided since 2018, 3PLs, shippers and cargo owners can now use their software integration services to connect quickly and flexibly to the TradeLens platform. The Youredi Integration service, is an offering that integrates seamlessly and easily with a wide variety of TMS, ERPs and other supply chain and logistics applications, whether on premise or cloud-based.

Permissioned data sharing across the maritime industry, improving the speed of data connectivity between different stakeholders, plus the need to digitalize and automate workflow processes has been a pain point for the industry for decades.

Youredi will support BCOs, 3PLs, carriers, freight forwarders, ports and terminals, authorities, customs brokers, and any other stakeholders to connect with the TradeLens platform rapidly with a predictable cost, effort and time commitment. Connecting different stakeholders with the platform will create a more transparent container shipping industry in which all parties can collaborate and trust each other.

The Youredi solution takes care of the data translation, so you can always send and receive data in your preferred data standard or format. The solution can work both with structured (rich data) and unstructured (PDFs, scans, images) data. Whenever required, Youredi can also provide data validation and data enrichment logic.

More information about the service available at Youredi TradeLens Connectivity.

Source: TradeLens

WCO News – October 2020

The WCO has published the 93rdedition of WCO News, the Organization’s flagship magazine aimed at the global Customs community, which provides a selection of informative articles that touch the international Customs and trade landscape.

This issue looks more specifically at Customs valuation, a technical but fundamental subject. Since its inception, the WCO has always been closely associated with the different multilateral systems used to value imported goods. As the Technical Committee on Customs Valuation established by the WTO Agreement on Customs Valuation has just celebrated its 50th Session, we thought it appropriate to retrace the history of the rules used to determine the value of imports, the challenges raised by their implementation and existing opportunities for Customs to enrich their knowledge and improve their practices in this area.

The “Panorama” section covers various topics such as the development of electronic tariff platforms in Africa, the improvement of the food clearance process in India, the construction of an advanced digital platform for trade and logistics in the United Arab Emirates, enhanced collaboration between Australia and Korea through officer placement, and, finally, the perspective of Customs experts on issues deemed important in their own country or area of work.

Following on from the previous edition of the magazine, we have compiled articles related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the “Focus” section. The WCO Secretariat presents, in particular, the new procedures and new tools adopted to ensure continuity of activities by the Organization’s working bodies. As for capacity building, it is discussed in an article describing the remote delivery of Mercator Programme Stocktaking and Forward Planning missions by the WCO team overseeing the HMRC-WCO-UNCTAD Programme.

The “Flash info” section includes a long article on the new approaches to measuring corruption and integrity which have been adopted by the WCO Secretariat team in charge of the Anti-Corruption and Integrity Promotion (A-CIP) Programme, and what lessons can be learned from their experience so far.

Finally, this issue’s “Point of view” article highlights the benefits of using systematic non-intrusive screening equipment and automatic detection to screen baggage upon arrival at airports.

It has been our great pleasure to produce another edition of WCO News and we trust that you will enjoy reading this issue, whether it be the paper version or the new mobile-friendly digital one.

Source: WCO, 28 October 2020