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.

WCO Data Model 3.11.0 – Online

Unlike the previous versions where the WCO DM was made available on the WCO Members’ website in a downloadable format, version 3.11.0 of the WCO DM is being released on a new publication platform: the WCO DM app. This app interactively displays WCO DM components and aims to enhance the user experience of working with the WCO DM. In so doing, it helps users navigate through different WCO DM data objects, such as classes, data elements and information models, more easily.

The publication of version 3.11.0 in December 2021 marks the culmination of the maintenance process undertaken by the DMPT in its meetings held from September 2020 to April 2021.

In addition to incorporating changes requested by Members through the regular maintenance procedure, version 3.11.0 introduces two new Message Implementation Guides (MIGs) – for implementing the IMO Compendium and WCO-UPU Joint Message Standards.

The MIGs offer practical guidance and additional technical information useful for implementation of the DM, in addition to the semantic definitions available in the Base Information Packages (BIPs) and/or Derived Information Packages (DIPs).

The IMO MIG includes technical information for implementing ship reporting formalities outlined in the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention). This MIG is the result of the joint efforts of the WCO and the IMO in updating the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business.

The UPU MIG contains technical information relating to primary electronic message formats, namely CUSITM, a message for a postal operator to transmit mail item information to its local Customs authority, and CUSRES, a message to respond to a CUSITM message.

In accordance with the Council Decision of December 2020, the WCO DM package published in the DM app is available free of charge to all interested parties, including Members, partner international organizations and private-sector stakeholders. All those interested in accessing the WCO DM will be able to take advantage of the app after accepting the WCO DM use terms and conditions. The app is accessible at http://datamodel.wcoomd.org.

WTO Joint Statement Initiative on E-commerce

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the digital economy’s importance, accelerated the digital transformation and heightened the need for global rules governing digital trade. As Co-convenors of the Joint Statement Initiative on Electronic Commerce, we are committed to responding to this challenge. This initiative will update the WTO rulebook in an area of critical importance to the global economy.

We recognise the importance of the digital economy in post-COVID-19 economic recovery. The digital economy offers enormous opportunities for developing Members and least-developed country (LDC) Members, including by lowering the costs for businesses, particularly MSMEs, to access and participate in global markets. WTO rules and commitments on digital trade can help unlock these opportunities.

In this context, we will continue to drive negotiations towards a high standard and commercially meaningful outcome building on existing WTO agreements and frameworks. We will continue to promote inclusiveness and encourage the participation of as many WTO Members as possible in the negotiations, which were launched in our January 2019 Ministerial statement.

We welcome the substantial progress made to date in the negotiations. We have achieved good convergence in negotiating groups on eight articles – online consumer protection; electronic signatures and authentication; unsolicited commercial electronic messages; open government data; electronic contracts; transparency; paperless trading; and open internet access. The outcomes already achieved in these areas will deliver important benefits including boosting consumer confidence and supporting businesses trading online.

In addition, we have seen the consolidation of text proposals in other areas, including on customs duties on electronic transmissions, cross-border data flows, data localisation, source code, electronic transactions frameworks, cybersecurity, and electronic invoicing, as well as advanced discussions on market access. We will intensify negotiations in these areas from early 2022. We note that provisions that enable and promote the flow of data are key to high standard and commercially meaningful outcome.

Participants in the initiative support the continuation of the multilateral e-commerce moratorium in fostering certainty and predictability for businesses. The co-convenors consider it crucial that the initiative makes permanent among participants the practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions.

We recognise the importance of supporting the engagement of developing Members and LDC Members in the initiative, including implementation of commitments. We will continue to deepen the discussion, including through a series of roundtables, dialogues and webinars, on capacity building options and support for implementation for developing Members and LDC Members in 2022.

In light of the strong progress that has been achieved to date, the co-convenors will arrange the JSI work programme to secure convergence on the majority of issues by the end of 2022. We will identify opportunities throughout 2022 for Ministers to provide guidance on key issues in the negotiations.

We look forward to working with all participating Members as we intensify the negotiations and work towards a successful conclusion.

The Hon Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Australia

H.E. Mr HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan
H.E. Mr HAGIUDA Koichi, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Japan H.E. Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Trade and Industry, Singapor
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Amazon is making its own containers and bypassing supply chain chaos

For years, Amazon has been quietly chartering private cargo ships, making its own containers, and leasing planes to better control the complicated shipping journey of an online order. Now, as many retailers panic over supply chain chaos, Amazon’s costly early moves are helping it avoid the long wait times for available dock space and workers at the country’s busiest ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. 

“Los Angeles, there’s 79 vessels sitting out there up to 45 days waiting to come into the harbor,” ocean freight analyst Steve Ferreira told CNBC in November.  “Amazon’s latest venture that I’ve been tracking in the last two days, it waited two days in the harbor.”

By chartering private cargo vessels to carry its goods, Amazon can control where its goods go, avoiding the most congested ports.

“Who else would think of putting something going into an obscure port in Washington, and then trucking it down to L.A.? Most people are thinking, well, just bring the ship into L.A. But then you’re experiencing those two-week and three-weeks delay. So Amazon’s really taken advantage of some of the niche strategies I believe that the market needs to employ,” Ferreira said.

Still, Amazon has seen a 14% rise in out-of-stock items and an average price increase of 25% since January 2021, according to e-commerce management platform CommerceIQ.

“The consumer has been feeling price increases in everything that they’re purchasing,” said Margaret Kidd, Supply Chain & Logistics Technology program director at the University of Houston. “Ultimately, when there’s an increase in the cost of transportation, it gets passed down to the consumer.”

Amazon has been on a spending spree to control as much of the shipping process as possible. It spent more than $61 billion on shipping in 2020, up from just under $38 billion in 2019. Now, Amazon is shipping 72% of its own packages, up from less than 47% in 2019 according to SJ Consulting Group.

It’s even taking control at the first step of the shipping journey by making its own 53-foot cargo containers in China. Containers are in short supply, with long wait times and prices surging from less than $2,000 before the pandemic to $20,000 today.

“Amazon has produced probably 5,000 to 10,000 of these containers over the last two years I’ve been tracking it,” Ferreira said. “When they bring these containers onto U.S. soil, once they unload them, guess what? They get to be used in the domestic system and the rail system. They don’t have to return them to Asia like everyone else does.”

A cargo vessel called the Star Lygra called at the Port of Houston on October 5, 2021, filled with Amazon containers.

“By creating their own containers, they are essentially guaranteeing that equipment is going to be available for them,” said Lauren Beagen, maritime lawyer and founder of Squall Strategies. She was working at the Federal Maritime Commission when Amazon first registered with the agency in 2015, the first indication it was exploring its own ocean freight business. 

Then in 2017, Amazon started quietly operating as a global freight forwarder through a Chinese subsidiary, helping move goods across the ocean for its Chinese sellers who pay to be part of the Fulfilled by Amazon program. Internally, Amazon dubbed this project “Dragon Boat.” 

“They are doing over 10,000 containers per month of the small- and medium-sized Chinese exporters. Amazon’s volume as an ocean vendor — that’s right, you heard me correct, they’re considered an ocean vendor — would rank them in the top five transportation companies in the Trans Pacific,” Ferreira said.

This season, a handful of other major retailers — WalmartCostcoHome Depot, Ikea and Target — are also chartering their own vessels to bypass the busiest ports and get their goods unloaded sooner.

“The real purpose of these vessels when they were built was not containers. It was really lumber, chemicals, grain, agricultural products. But because of the ingenuity and creativity and lack of space, Amazon and many other smart people have quickly figured out how to convert some of these multipurpose vessels to container,” Ferreira said.

For some of the highest-margin goods, Amazon is avoiding ports altogether by reportedly leasing at least ten long-haul planes that can get smaller amounts of cargo directly from China to the U.S. much faster. One of the converted Boeing 777 planes can carry 220,000 pounds of cargo. According to capacity estimates from Ocean Audit, the small 1,000-container freighters being chartered by Amazon and others can hold 180 times that, with the biggest cargo ships carrying more than 3,600 times what the planes can hold.

Another strain on the supply chain is manpower.  

“We’ve been hearing a lot about the great resignation, with a lot of jobs going open and unfilled. So I think companies are looking to get very creative in attracting labor. It might be signing bonuses, higher pay,” said Judy Whipple, supply chain management professor at Michigan State University.

To fight the worker shortage — and a reputation for relentless workload and breakneck speed — Amazon says it’s offering sign-on bonuses of up to $3,000 to all the 150,000 seasonal workers it’s hiring this year. Last year, it hired 100,000 seasonal workers.

“That 50,000 increase in employees this year over last year is probably people to do the unloads. They’ve got these containers coming in at the last second, man, they want to unload those goods and get them on the shelves in the fulfillment centers as quickly as possible,” said John Esborn, who used to run logistics operations for Wayfair and is now the head of international transportation for Amazon aggregator Perch.

The seasonal workers are unloading and loading, picking and packing at more than 250 new facilities Amazon says it’s opened in the U.S. just in 2021 — a clear indication that it planned far ahead for the final bottleneck in the supply chain backlog: warehouse capacity.

Watch the video to learn more about all the bold and costly ways Amazon is avoiding the worst of the supply chain crisis this holiday season.

Source: CNBC, article by Katie Schoolov, 4 December 2021

France orders block on online store Wish on safety grounds

France has ordered search engines and other platforms to delist the online retail site Wish, saying it is a source of non-compliant and unsafe products. 

The website – which has also been accused of allowing the sale of counterfeit goods – has been investigated by France’s DGCRF, which regulated good and services in France.

The agency carried out test purchases of products including electronic devices, toys and costume jewellery, and determined that 95 per cent of toys did not meet EU standards, and 45 per cent were dangerous to children.

Moreover, 95 per cent of electronic devices were non-compliant, almost all of which (90 per cent) were hazardous, with 62 per cent of costume jewellery also deemed risky to consumers.

The DGCRF also concluded that Wish wasn’t meeting its obligations on carrying out product withdrawals and recalls “as is required by its status as a distributor.” It is the first time that such an action has been taken by an EU member state, according to the regulator.

“This decision aims to protect consumers and fight against unfair competition from economic operators,” said Bruno Le Maire, France’s economy and finance minister.

“These players are flouting product safety regulations,” he added. “The same rules must be applied in physical stores and online stores.”

Last year, the DGCRF said it had conducted a year-long investigation into Wish which found evidence of the sale of counterfeit products falsely claiming to be from major brands.

The investigation came after UK consumer group Which carried out test purchases of a number of items on Wish which turned out to be either fake, illegal, dangerous, never delivered, or arrived too late to be tested properly.

US-headquartered Wish has responded by saying it will challenge what it considers to be “an illegal and disproportionate act” in the courts.

The company says it is under no obligation to carry out controls on the 150 million products sold by the platform – many from suppliers in China – but claims it has invested in measures to weed out quality problems.

Source: Securing Industry

WCO – 2022 edition of the Harmonized System Nomenclature is now available online.

As of 18 November 2021, the online version of the 2022 edition of the Harmonized System Nomenclature is available through the WCO Website to all HS users.  The HS 2022 edition, as the world’s global standard for classifying goods in international trade, will enter into force on 1 January 2022.

Used by over 200 countries and economic or Customs unions as the basis for their Customs tariffs and for trade statistics, as well as by international organizations such as the United Nations Statistical Division (UNSD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Harmonized System (HS) Convention currently has 160 Contracting Parties, making it the WCO’s most successful instrument to date.

The 2022 edition of the HS Nomenclature includes significant changes with 351 sets of amendments (including some complementary amendments): 77 relating to the agricultural sector; 58 to the chemical sector; 31 to the wood sector; 21 to the textile sector; 27 to the base metal sector; 63 to the machinery sector; 22 to the transport sector and an additional 52 that apply to a variety of other sectors, comprising a total of 1,228 headings identified by a 4-digit code, and 5,612 subheadings identified by a 6-digit code. 

These amendments have been made to update the Harmonized System Nomenclature, taking into consideration public health and safety, protection of society and fight against terrorism, goods especially controlled under various conventions, food security and environment protection, technological progress, trade patterns, and clarification of the HS texts.

Click here for the HS Nomenclature 2022 Edition.

The digital version of the HS 2022 edition is also available for free on WCO Trade Tools, which is the WCO’s new online database platform that encompasses the last five editions of the HS and functionalities to support all those involved in international trade.  The WCO Trade Tools encompasses various free and subscription only tools relating to the classification and valuation of goods, origin determination and the application of preferential rules of origin.

The paper version of the HS 2022 edition can be purchased on WCO’s Bookshop.

Global Trade Braces for a Mini Y2K With Customs Code Overhaul

Picture by Kyle Glen

The following article was published in Supply Lines, Bloomberg

As if the foot soldiers of global trade needed more complications this holiday season, many logistics managers and customs brokers are starting to brace for a mini Y2K moment come Jan. 1.

That’s when changes will take effect to the official nomenclature for hundreds of product groups used to classify imports and exports. So-called Harmonized System numbers — known as HS codes — exist on more than 5,000 product categories developed by the World Customs Organization, an intergovernmental group in Brussels that updates them every five years or so.

In 2022, the biggest changes are coming for electrical machinery and parts, wood, textiles, fish and organic chemicals.

More than 350 global HS codes are getting updated, and some 1,500 harmonized U.S. tariff codes are subject to revisions, according to a recent webinar from Flexport. The categories are important, if a little wonky, because most items of international commerce fall into one and they can determine tariff levels.

Some codes are disappearing. After a respectable run through the 1970s and ‘80s, answering machines are about to lose their HS code. Made obsolete by voicemail, they rank 5,296th among 5,832 U.S. imports this year, according to Flexport data.

Globes — those spinning spheres that taught geography to schoolkids of the 1970s — will have their number (4905.10) retired, too.

“The trade in globes is not quite what it used to be,” Marcus Eeman, a global customs manager with Flexport, lamented about the U.S.’s 4,025th-biggest import.

Chemical Weapons?

Some new HS codes will appear, like one for pomace oil, a lower-grade form of olive oil.

Among the more intriguing additions, Flexport says there’ll be a “new code created for petroleum resins and other organic chemical compounds used in the manufacture of chemical weapons.” That should make it easier for authorities to track which countries are importing it and potentially using them illegally.

Other categories are getting renamed. Lamps will no longer fall under “lamps,” they’ll be classified as “luminaires.” There will be new subheadings for popular gadgets like smart phones, high-speed digital cameras and flat panel displays.

Economies preparing for the changes include the U.S., China, the European Union, Canada and Australia. The U.K., meanwhile, is still “finding their footing with Brexit and we expect them to get their act together by the end of the year,” Eeman said.

For all the changes to take effect on Jan. 1 in the U.S., there will need to be a presidential proclamation published in the Federal Register with the required 30 days of advanced notice.

So it’s worth looking out for that in coming days.

“My fear is that Dec. 1 will come and the presidential proclamation will be published and that’s when people will start to scramble,” said Tom Gould, Flexport’s vice president of global customs. “Then Jan. 1 will hit and you’ll have a bunch of people that have products that they need to import but they don’t know the classification, because the code that they’ve used in the past is no longer a valid code.’’

Source: Bloomberg, authored by Brendan Murray, 24 November 2021

WCO – New technology-assisted capacity building: the Virtual Reality (VR) assisted training program

The WCO has announced that it has set up a VR training program with the support of CCF-Korea at the WCO Headquarters on 9th November 2021. 

This program was developed and first established in RTC Korea last September to support customs officials to learn and understand the basic procedures of physical inspection on containerized cargo at a maritime port.

With the help of VR devices and a cyber master, a trainee is requested to select one of three individual scenarios and detect contraband items such as drugs, counterfeit goods and explosives smuggled in imported cargo.

After selecting one case, documents have to be compared and discrepancies identified. The program will show necessary steps to wear safety gear, inspect the exterior of the container, scan it with ZBV vehicle and study the X-ray black/white and coloured images. In the following step, the container is opened and inspected with tools like a chisel, magnifying glass, scanner, etc., at a bonded area of a dedicated warehouse.

RTC Korea, KCS and WCO Secretariats contributed to the program production and provided materials on drug smuggling cases with pictures, advice on preparatory steps, inspection scenarios taking into account risk indicators from the WCO RM compendium.

The length of one training session is approximately 10 to 15 minutes depending on the trainee‘s progress, and the devices for the VR training are the headset, controller, high-end computer, TV screen and kiosk. The program also developed a screen version that Customs officials can play on their desktop computer and notebook and have the 3D experience.   

During the experience session, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, the Secretary General of the WCO, expressed high interest and called on feedback on future activities from those who experience the program to make it more relevant for Members’ capacity building. In this regard, the immediate task is to prove its effectiveness through regional capacity building activities and WCO meetings. 

Dr. Taeil Kang, the Director of Capacity Building Directorate expressed his plans to develop content for other topics including e-commerce transactions, X-ray image screening and uploading on CLiKC and installation in other WCO regions. 

For more information, please contact Sungsig Kim, CCF-Korea manager at the Capacity Building Directorate (sungsig.kim@wcoomd.org).

Visualizing Congestion at America’s Busiest Port

The Busiest Port in America: Los Angeles

U.S. e-commerce grew by 32.4% in 2020—the highest annual growth rate in over two decades. Such rapid growth has resulted in many more goods being imported, leaving America’s western ports completely overwhelmed. 

To help you understand the scale of this issue, we’ve visualized the number of containers waiting at sea in relation to the Port of Los Angeles’ daily processing capacity. 

Stuck at Sea

As of November 2, 2021, the Port of Los Angeles reported that it had 93 vessels waiting in queue. Altogether, these ships have a maximum carrying capacity of roughly 540,000 containers (commonly measured in twenty-foot equivalent units or TEUs). 

On the other side of the equation, the port processed 468,059 import containers in September (the most recent data at the time of writing). Because the port does not operate on Sundays, we can conclude that the port can load roughly 18,000 containers each day. 

That capacity seems unlikely to reduce the congestion. Over a two-week timeframe in September, 407,695 containers arrived at the Port of Los Angeles, which averages to around 29,000 containers arriving each day…

Read the full article

Source:VisualCapitalist.com

WCO News, October 2021 Edition

The WCO has published the 96th edition of WCO News, the Organization’s magazine aimed at the global Customs community, providing a selection of informative articles that bring the international Customs and trade world to life.

This edition’s “Dossier” focuses on cross-border e-commerce, in other words those “transactions which are effected digitally through a computer network (e.g. the internet), and result in physical goods flows subject to Customs formalities”. We have invited several administrations to share information on the initiatives they are taking to build their capacity for monitoring the compliance of such flows. Despite every country’s situation being unique, we still believe that it is important to share experiences and explain initiatives.

The “Panorama” section addresses a broad variety of topics such as rules or origin, goods classification, training and reforms. It also includes two articles which respectively present, from a Customs perspective, two recent regional Free Trade Agreements: the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the African Continental Free Trade Area.

The “Focus” section brings together two articles dealing with non-intrusive inspection (NII). In the first one, the WCO Secretariat shows how some Customs administrations and manufacturers manage the decommissioning of NII equipment when it has reached the end of its life. The second article describes the challenges of X-ray image analysis and the value of training.

Lastly, in the “Point of View” section, Dutch Customs explains the structure of the ISO Audit Data Collection Standard and why it supports the Standard’s extension to cover data related to Customs and indirect tax audits, while an attorney from Israel argues that governments should consider waiving taxes on transport costs until we are back to “normal” and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are no longer being felt.

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

SARS to Administer Control over Advance Payments for Imports

Draft amendment to rules under section 120(1)(mC) – Insertion of rule to advance foreign exchange import payments

The Advance Import Payment (AIP) project is one of Customs’ modernisation initiatives. This project aims to bring together data from SARS, Authorised Dealers and the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) to increase regulatory controls relating to advance foreign exchange payments in order to prevent illicit financial flows and combat customs valuation fraud associated therewith.

Proposed rules under section 120(1)(mC) of the Act have been inserted providing for –

  • procedures for notifying Commissioner of intention to submit application for advance payment to authorised dealer;
  • issuing of advance payment notice (APN) reference number;
  • requirements for authorised dealers; and

·        communication through eFiling for purposes of advance payments.

Concerned parties must record their comments on the Customs & Excise Comment Sheet.

How Countries can Diversify their Exports

Four economy-wide factors—governance, education, infrastructure, and trade policy—relate closely to more varied and complex exports across countries

As the world’s biggest copper producer, Chile’s shipments of the metal meet around one-third of global demand and represent about half its goods exports.

But beyond mining’s dominance, Chile’s trade flows are more varied and complex than they may appear, with significant exports of vehicles, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications equipment. And according to a recent IMF staff paper, the Andean economy is among those that shine as a role model for diversification policies.

By looking beyond commodities, the research shows that economy-wide policies such as governance and education help foster diverse exports more than narrowly targeted industrial policies, a finding that can better guide nations aiming to expand their international trade.

The examination of 201 countries and territories goes beyond the economic complexity indices that have traditionally been used by economists. Those proxies for the productive capability of a given economic system have strong sensitivity to commodities, which can distort their accuracy.

For a more nuanced read, staff research proposes new ways to gauge diversity and complexity of national exports and suggests how economy-wide policies can foster such variety. Economists call these horizontal policies because they apply broadly across a country instead of targeting single sectors. The approach also takes stock of an economy’s geographic proximity to trade partners, and how it affects exports excluding commodities like metals or oil.

This lens offers policymakers lessons for how they can better support more multifaceted trade, a common objective in emerging and developing economies because it’s associated with less volatile economic output and faster long-term expansion.

Four key factors

The methodology shows a clear a link between the non-commodity exports that aid diversification and complexity and four economy-wide variables that help support them: governance, education, infrastructure, and open trade. Improving those areas helps to diversify by creating conditions that make it possible to boost complex or higher-value-added exports.

This is significant because demonstrating how economy-wide policies do explain diversification challenges the belief that industrial policies, meant to support specific industries, offer the best way to broaden trade.

The analysis shows that, except for abundant copper reserves, Chile’s economic profile, surprisingly, resembles Malaysia’s. The Asian nation has similarly strong education and institutions, but it benefits from being much closer to the major global supply-chain hubs of China, Japan and Korea.

Prominent Asian and European exporters, from Hong Kong and Singapore to Ireland and Denmark, have among the most diverse and complex shipments and the strongest horizontal policies.

Good policies can make a big difference

For governments aspiring to more varied trade flows, the new approach to explaining diversification underscores the need to effectively shorten geographic distance by enhancing connectivity between nations. Better transportation logistics, at seaports for example, effectively shorten distance by reducing transit times for goods. Other helpful policies include easing trade policy barriers, enhancing trade facilitation, fostering the spread of technology through educational exchange programs, and investing in communication technologies such as broadband that support the digital economy.

Strengthening horizontal policies may seem challenging, especially for countries with lower income. However, several countries have much stronger policies than expected for their income levels, including Rwanda for governance; Georgia and Ukraine for educational attainment; Malaysia for infrastructure; and Mauritius and Peru for tariffs. These economies can be role models.

To be sure, that doesn’t deny the potential effectiveness of more targeted support for individual sectors. Industrial policy levers, though, may be less effective or even harmful. Potential drawbacks include diminished fiscal capacity, a race to the bottom in taxation, and eroded multilateralism. Furthermore, there is no cross-country statistical evidence of their effectiveness.

Instead, diversification strategies built around broader policies and connectivity are both less controversial and more supportive of export diversification and complexity.

Source: IMF, article by Gonzalo Salinas, 22 September 2021

World Bank – to Discontinue Doing Business Report 

The World Bank Group today issued the following statement on the Doing Business report: 

Trust in the research of the World Bank Group is vital. World Bank Group research informs the actions of policymakers, helps countries make better-informed decisions, and allows stakeholders to measure economic and social improvements more accurately. Such research has also been a valuable tool for the private sector, civil society, academia, journalists, and others, broadening understanding of global issues.

After data irregularities on Doing Business 2018 and 2020 were reported internally in June 2020, World Bank management paused the next Doing Business report and initiated a series of reviews and audits of the report and its methodology. In addition, because the internal reports raised ethical matters, including the conduct of former Board officials as well as current and/or former Bank staff, management reported the allegations to the Bank’s appropriate internal accountability mechanisms.  

After reviewing all the information available to date on Doing Business, including the findings of past reviews, audits, and the report the Bank released today on behalf of the Board of Executive Directors, World Bank Group management has taken the decision to discontinue the Doing Business report. The World Bank Group remains firmly committed to advancing the role of the private sector in development and providing support to governments to design the regulatory environment that supports this. Going forward, we will be working on a new approach to assessing the business and investment climate. We are deeply grateful to the efforts of the many staff members who have worked diligently to advance the business climate agenda, and we look forward to harnessing their energies and abilities in new ways.”

Source: World Bank Group, 16 September 2021

WCO News – June 2021

The WCO has published the 95th edition of WCO News, the Organization’s magazine aimed at the global Customs community, providing a selection of informative articles that bring the international Customs and trade world to life.

This edition’s “Dossier” focuses on “People”, and includes several articles discussing experiences, tools and practices related to Human Resource management and development. We hope this will inspire readers to take action and contribute to creating a work environment which enables people to continue growing professionally and to learn new skills that will benefit their organization, their country and the global community.

In the “Panorama” section, Algeria Customs introduces its advance ruling system for the classification of goods, Belarus Customs explains how its role in border management has developed, and a private company gives an overview of the Electronic Cargo Tracking System launched in Mozambique.

Given that the WCO Secretariat organized the second edition of its Global Origin Conference in March 2021, we decided to dedicate the “Focus” section of the magazine to rules of origin. It opens with an article highlighting the key points made by the Conference speakers and continues with articles on advance rulings, problems associated with non-preferential rules and the joint proposal for the review of Specific Annex K to the Revised Kyoto Convention.

Lastly, in the “Point of View” section, Argentina Customs explains how it has increased its participation in WCO committees and working groups following the move to online meetings, the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations presents some of the challenges facing freight forwarders, and a software engineer shares his views on data analytics tools and how to make them work for all.

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

Source: WCO, 24 June 2021

WCO – Two new Instruments on Customs Valuation to Support Customs and Economic Operators

At its 52nd Session, held from 17 to 19 May 2021, the Technical Committee on Customs Valuation adopted two instruments (Advisory Opinions 4.18 and 24.1) concerning royalties and licence fees under Article 8.1 (c) of the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement (Agreement) and the Customs valuation treatment of imported goods bearing the buyer’s own trademark, respectively. 

These two instruments were adopted after a virtual session which extended over three days, having regard to the current circumstances relating to the pandemic. It rewards the efforts constantly being made by the Technical Committee to improve the certainty of the interpretation and uniform application of the provisions of the Agreement in all member countries of the WTO. Practical instruments of this kind help Customs, the private sector and the Members in the fair control of Customs valuation, the facilitation of international trade and the optimization of Customs revenue.

In the first instrument, the Technical Committee gives its opinion on the valuation treatment of income tax deriving from the royalty paid to the country of importation’s tax authorities in accordance with the terms of the licence agreement signed by the importer and the seller, who is also the licence holder.

The second instrument relates to the valuation treatment of the trademark belonging to the buyer and provided free of charge to the seller for use in connection with the production of the imported goods.

These instruments adopted by the Technical Committee, once they have been approved by the WCO Council, will be available on the WCO Publications website and published in the WCO Customs Valuation Compendium.

Source: WCO, 27 May 2021

WCO – Cross-border movement of vaccines enhanced with further guidance and good practices

The World Customs Organization (WCO) published the 2nd edition of the Secretariat Note on the Role of Customs in facilitating and securing the cross-border movement of situationally critical medicines and vaccines that enhances the inaugural version launched on 25 February 2021.

WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya stated, “How to achieve equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is critical, and Customs administrations around the world should support global efforts by not only facilitating the cross-border movement of the vaccines themselves, but also by speeding up and facilitating the Customs clearance of the raw materials and components used in the vaccine manufacturing process.” He added that “This will greatly contribute to the efforts to scale up vaccine manufacturing and the 2nd edition of the Secretariat Note highlights the critical role Customs”.

The document contains further guidance on practical ways to implement the measures of the December 2020 Resolution of the Customs Co-operation Council on the Role of Customs in facilitating the cross-border movement of situationally critical medicines and vaccines, a greater number of Members’ case studies, and operational guidelines developed for the WCO Membership by the Australian Border Force. 

The guidance outlined in the Secretariat Note draws upon relevant WCO instruments and tools, Members’ good practices and insights gathered as a result of the collaboration with other international organizations, the pharmaceutical industry, logistics providers and other relevant private sector entities.

The Secretariat Note is designed to be a living document that will be enhanced with more Members’ practices and further practical guidance as WCO Members and the industry gain experience and share information with the WCO Secretariat on the Customs clearance of COVID-19 vaccines, related supplies, inputs and equipment.

Also refer to – COVID-19 vaccines distribution across borders

Source: WCO, 28 May 2021