AfCFTA – Why regional support is crucial for effective implementation

Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat

In order to support the implementation processes of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) need to make informed choices about how to reap the benefits presented by the agreement, while at the same time managing the challenges that may be encountered in the course of the implementation. 

Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, stressed this Tuesday, June 7, on the occasion of the second coordination meeting of the CEOs of RECs, on the implementation of the AfCFTA held at the EAC Headquarters, in Arusha, Tanzania.

The meeting sought to take stock of the progress made since the last meeting in Accra in 2021.

The role of the continent’s eight RECs is critical especially as the latter are building blocks for the AfCFTA.

Mene said the implementation of the AfCFTA will likely influence future trade policies of the RECs. 

“In this regard, effective collaboration between the RECs and the AfCFTA Secretariat is necessary to ensure that the AfCFTA outcomes are consistent with regional advancements in trade integration made thus far and the projections for the future,” Mene said.

“Therefore, the coordination meetings offer us an opportunity to listen to one another, to better understand our areas of difference, and to work together to build consensus around common positions critical to our success at creating an African Economic Community.”

African leaders mandated the AfCFTA Secretariat, the African Union Commission, and the RECs to develop a framework of collaboration to enhance complementarity, synergies, and alignment of programmes and activities to facilitate the effective implementation of the AfCFTA. The negotiation of the AfCFTA is now in phase two which covers investments, intellectual property rights, women and youth in Trade competition policy and digital trade. 

It is Mene’s strong conviction that by agreeing on a workable framework which will strengthen the interdependence of RECs on the one hand, and strengthen the cooperation between RECs and the AfCFTA Secretariat on the other hand, “we will be taking steps critical to the success of the AfCFTA.”

“We have already received instructions from the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union to take all necessary steps to ensure the effective implementation of the AfCFTA, including facilitating commercially meaningful flow of goods and services under the AfCFTA preferential regime, across the continent. We were also instructed to develop a coordinated approach to the implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement, with the existing RECs as building blocks.”

Peter Mathuki, the EAC Secretary-General, noted that Africa is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, but trade in goods and services accounts for an estimated 3% of global exports and imports on average. 

As noted, the share of Intra African trade remains low: on average, 13% for intra-imports and 20% for intra-exports, while ExtraAfrican trade accounts for more than 80% of the total trade. Africa’s exports to the rest of the world consist of raw materials, such as oil, gas, minerals, and agricultural commodities, with little to no value addition.

Mathuki said: “There are many reasons why intra-Africa trade is low; these include differences in trade regimes (8 AU recognised RECs), inadequacies of trade-related infrastructure (poor intermodal connectivity), trade finance and trade information. 

“Other constraints are customs, administrative and technical barriers, limited productive capacity, lack of factor market integration and inadequate focus on internal market issues.”

With a market of around 1.3 billion consumers and a GDP of $ 3.4 trillion, Mathuki reiterated, AfCFTA will unlock many opportunities in the continent and redesign the architectural framework of its economic systems. 

“The eight AU recognised RECs are the official pillars of the African Economic Community (AEC) set out in the Abuja Treaty establishing the AEC. The RECs play a critical role in coordinating and submitting REC tariff offers, schedules, and commitments on trade in services and are fully involved in negotiations on outstanding issues,” Mathuki said.

“Active engagement and input from the private sector and interest groups at the national and REC level are needed to shape the AfCFTA trade regime and resolve challenges ahead.”

Amb. Liberata Mulamula, Tanzania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said her country commends the initiative of establishing collaboration between the AfCFTA and RECs towards implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement. 

“Tanzania as a member of EAC Customs Union has ratified the AfCFTA agreement and is also a member of SADC and EAC. In order to have a meaningful implementation of the agreement, the United Republic of Tanzania needs to align its participation in the AfCFTA to that of the RECs as its member.”

“I am confident that this framework will underpin the interface between the AfCFTA and RECs Free Trade Area and laydown actionable policy proposals that would assist in ensuring coherent, coordinated and fully responsive collaboration between the AfCFTA and RECs.”

Source: The New Times, 8 June 2022

FIATA – Launches Paperless FBL Solution

Picture: Glenn Carsten-Pieters

FIATA is proud to bring its members a pragmatic solution to move from paper documents to paperless FIATA BLs, which can be issued directly through their everyday tools. The FIATA solution improves the level of security of the FIATA BL in comparison to the paper version, making use of blockchain technology to authenticate the documents and provide an audit trail. Conscious of the various challenges which remain to be overcome to achieve worldwide adoption and legal recognition of electronic exchange of data, the paperless FBL is an answer to the needs of the industry for improved access and exchange of trade documents. The document issuer can decide in which format (s)he wishes to share the original unaltered document with its stakeholders: in paper form or as a PDF. Based on its eFBL data standard, FIATA has developed an API service, available free of charge to all software providers, allowing them to connect with FIATA to create secured paperless FBLs.

As of today, seven software providers have already signed an agreement with the Federation to implement the solution: AKANEA, CargowiseCargoXedoxOnline (Global Share), InfoSysTech-ISTNabu and Usyncro. We are very pleased to announce that the paperless FBLs can start to be issued as of today with edoxOnline, InfoSysTech-IST and Usyncro who have already finalised the implementation.

FIATA encourages all TMS’s, eBL providers and other software providers to join them and implement their solution to offer this new service to their customers. All technical specifications are available on FIATA’s GitHub repository.

 The solution, developed by FIATA partner Komgo, will help to reduce fraud risks, as each document is recorded on an immutable ledger and will be verifiable at any time by all stakeholders interacting with the document. Stakeholders will be able to either scan the QR code at the top right of the document, or directly upload the PDF on FIATA’s verification page to access the document audit trail which will

  • certify the validity of the document,
  • the identity of its issuer, and
  • the integrity of its content.

Souleïma Baddi, CEO of Komgo, when asked to comment on the paperless FBL launch said: ‘Documents are the bedrock of international trade, but they don’t operate like we need them to and they’re susceptible to fraud and forgery, that happens quite often.

Trakk is the digital ecosystem of trust for trade documents. I am thrilled to see FIATA joining all companies, financial institutions, warehouses and others who are using Trakk to protect their documents against fraud.’

‘WiseTech Global congratulates FIATA on the launch of their electronic bill of lading.’ The company continued: ‘This initiative will support transparency and security across the supply chain and will help companies to accelerate their digitalisation efforts. It was a pleasure to work with FIATA on this initiative. CargoWise customers will be able to request a connection to FIATA’s eFBL from June 2022.’ 

‘FIATA is very excited to embark on this important milestone of its digital journey which paved the way for great opportunities for the future of freight forwarders’, said FIATA Director General Stéphane Graber.

For more information, visit FIATA’s dedicated webpage

SAFE Working Group urges greater harmonization of AEO programmes

Picture – Nazarizal Mohammed

The 26th/27th Meetings of the SAFE Working Group (SWG) were held successfully from 11 to 14 April 2022. The virtual meetings brought together more than 260 delegates representing Customs administrations, the Private Sector Consultative Group (PSCG), other international organizations and academia.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Pranab Kumar Das, WCO Director of Compliance and Facilitation, highlighted that the SWG had reached an important juncture as the new three-year SAFE review cycle 2021-2024 was about to enter into discussions. It was pointed out that 17 years after it was first published, the SAFE Framework of Standards (FoS) had garnered substantial interest from WCO Members. During the meetings, Guyana became the 172nd WCO Member to express its interest in implementing the SAFE FoS. 

With a view to continued enhancement of the AEO criteria and provisions to strengthen the SAFE FoS, WCO Members made several new proposals to revise the Framework. The SWG also received feedback from the private sector on the urgent need to enhance the harmonization of SAFE and AEO implementation. In this context, the SWG heard a presentation by the WCO Anti-Corruption and Integrity Promotion (A-CIP) Programme on maintaining the integrity and transparency of AEO implementation.

On this occasion, the SWG reviewed and adopted the new Work Plan for 2022-2024, which reflected the critical activities the SWG will carry out over the next two years until 2024, in parallel with the SAFE review cycle. The SWG also received an update on the development of new features for the Online AEO Compendium (OAC) and the other extensive work underway in collaboration with other international organizations in the areas of security and facilitation.

Against the backdrop of the WCO’s theme for 2022, the panel discussion on “Scaling up Customs Digital Transformation by Embracing a Data Culture and Building a Data Ecosystem” attracted significant interest from Members and the private sector. The experienced speakers from Member Customs administrations, the private sector and the Secretariat enriched the discussions by sharing their best practices on using data for enhancing risk management and monitoring AEO programmes.

As a way forward, the SWG agreed that efforts will be reserved for a comprehensive review to assess and monitor SAFE implementation for greater harmonization of AEO programmes globally.

Source: World Customs Organisation, 25 April 2022

WTO – Trade in Knowledge

The WTO has launched a new book entitled “Trade in Knowledge: Intellectual Property, Trade and Development in a Transformed Global Economy” on 31 March. At the launch event, a wide cross-section of contributors to the publication discussed how their research and analysis had a bearing on current issues lying at the intersection of development, trade, technology and the diffusion of knowledge.

Drawing together insights from a diverse range of leading international scholars and analysts, the publication explores how to build more inclusive, up-to-date and precise ways of measuring knowledge flows, discusses how more nuanced and effective use of these data may guide policymakers and provides insights into the prospects for knowledge-based social and economic development, moving legacy models and adapting to the realities of the contemporary knowledge economy. The book also proposes ideas for updated systems of governance that promote positive sum approaches to the creation and sharing of the benefits of knowledge as a public good, with a view to informing planning for development.

The book’s table of contents is available here.

Source: World Trade Organisation

Abu Dhabi Customs joins TradeLens

Abu Dhabi Customs hosted a workshop recently with key Importers and Exporters discussing how TradeLens and digitized transportation documentation has the ability to streamline processes in customs declaration processes.

 “Abu Dhabi Customs is excited to work with a group of importers and exporters to explore the benefits that collaboration using blockchain can offer to all those involved. This joint approach is critical to create time savings in the process and to improve access to international trade to all entities that trade with Abu Dhabi. We really believe TradeLens will be bringing a lot of benefits to our ecosystem here in Abu Dhabi”. – Yanal Qasim Mohammad Alkhasoneh, Division Director – Information Technology, Information Technology Division  

“The collaboration across public and private entities towards a single shared goal was immensely encouraging. The gathering of industry leaders, authorities, and ocean carriers to jointly and openly address international transportation documentation highlights the desire to improve existing processes using innovative digital tools like TradeLens”. – Thomas Sproat, Global Head of Network TradeLens

Source: TradeLens, 9 February 2022

WCO and AfCFTA Secretariats join forces for the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area

On 15 February 2022, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), and H.E. Mr. Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, met at WCO Headquarters to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). This MoU aims at strengthening the organizational capacity, transparency and effectiveness of African Customs administrations in a sustainable manner through cooperation between both Organizations. 

In his remarks on this occasion, Secretary General Mene explained that it had been a long road since the establishment of the AfCFTA Secretariat. Today, 41 of its 54 Member States had duly ratified Rules of Origin for 87.7% of tariff headings agreed upon, to name but one milestone. He recalled the mandate of his Secretariat and stated that Customs’ involvement is essential in order to realise the ambitions laid out in the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA. He also noted that expectations were high and that communities were eager to start trading under the Agreement. The AfCFTA Secretary General then acknowledged the WCO’s expertise and role in delivering capacity building in highly-technical areas which were key for implementing the Agreement.

After congratulating his counterpart for the work done by the AfCFTA Secretariat, Dr. Mikuriya highlighted the areas where the WCO could contribute, including customs technical matters such as the Harmonized System, Valuation and Origin, as well as automation, risk management and trade facilitation which will yield economic benefits to the African continent.

He went on to outline the WCO’s long experience in developing capacity-building materials for Customs administrations and in donor coordination to ensure the efficient delivery of training. He reaffirmed WCO’s commitment to contribute to the regional integration efforts in Africa through customs modernisation.

Source: WCOOMD, 16 February 2022

When will the AfCFTA be customs-ready?

Picture: Grayomm @ Unsplash.com

The negotiations to finalise the tariff schedules and rules of origin (RoO) of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) are taking place during the last two weeks of January 2022. Senior Trade Officials (STOs) and the AfCFTA Council of Ministers (COM) will then meet to confirm the results or to decide the outstanding issues. Once the State Parties have agreed on the content of these important Annexes to the AfCFTA Protocol on Trade in Goods, they must be adopted. This is the responsibility of the African Union (AU) Assembly.[1]

Trade in goods under AfCFTA preferences can then begin among the State Parties presently trading with each other under most-favoured-nation (MFN) rates. (Non-State Parties will first have to accede to the AfCFTA Agreement in terms of Article 23 of the AfCFTA Agreement.)

Those State Parties that are members of Regional Economic Community (REC) Free Trade Areas (FTAs), Customs Unions (CUs) and other trade arrangements will continue to trade under existing preferential arrangements.

Article 19(2) AfCFTA Agreement provides that

“… State Parties that are members of other regional economic communities, regional trading arrangements and custom unions, which have attained among themselves higher levels of regional integration than under this Agreement, shall maintain such higher levels among themselves”.

Article 8(2) of the Protocol on Trade in Goods adds the following:

“… State Parties that are members of other RECs, which have attained among themselves higher levels of elimination of customs duties and trade barriers than those provided for in this Protocol, shall maintain, and where possible improve upon, those higher levels of trade liberalisation among themselves”. 

However, there is also the practical requirement that the AfCFTA regime must be “customs ready”. It means that the tariff books of individual State Parties and of CUs such as the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), and presumably the East African Community (EAC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), need to be updated. AfCFTA columns will have to be added to these tariff books in order to ensure the new preferences will be enjoyed when customs officials and border control agencies clear goods under this new trade arrangement.

The updating of a tariff book normally happens through national legislative procedures such as the promulgation of a Government Gazette. Customs and other border officials can only act in terms of domestic legal instruments granting them the necessary powers. Trade agreements are not self-executing.[2]

The importation and exportation of goods entail detail procedures involving customs clearance. Customs clearance is the procedure of procuring permission, through its customs authority, to either take goods out of its territory (export) or have goods enter its territory (import). Failure to provide the correct paperwork will mean that goods cannot clear customs and enter the market of the country of destination.

The customs authority of a country is the administrative agency responsible for collecting tariffs and for controlling the flow of goods into and out of a country. Depending on local legislation and regulations, the import or export of some goods may be restricted or forbidden, and the customs agency enforces these rules. The customs authority is different from the immigration authority, which monitors persons who leave or enter the country, checking for appropriate documentation, apprehending people wanted by international arrest warrants, and impeding the entry of others deemed dangerous to the country. A customs duty is a tariff or tax on the importation or exportation of goods.

The approach taken by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) is to improve the security of borders, without unduly hindering legitimate international trade. The WCO initiative focusses on the entire international trade supply chain, rather than restricting customs’ interest to that aspect of the international trade transaction, when goods move across a border. The basic principle underpinning its work is to create an international mechanism for Customs Administrations to gain access to relevant information relating to international trade well in advance, for the purposes of risk management and risk assessment.[3]

The AfCFTA is a free trade agreement (FTA). This is an agreement between States that removes tariffs and other restrictions on goods which are traded between the State Parties, according to the applicable RoO. The main difference between a customs union and a free trade agreement is that even where zero (or reduced) tariffs are part of an FTA, extra bureaucracy is needed to take advantage of those tariffs. Exporting under an FTA means companies have to comply with a complex set of rules (known as preferential rules of origin) to prove that goods only come from countries who have signed up to the FTA and that such goods have been produced or manufactured in accordance with the applicable RoO. For a customs union, once the common external tariff has been paid for a product then it is in “free circulation”. Traders only have to prove the common external tariff has been paid on goods or parts they have used. This is easier to demonstrate than proving the origin of imported goods.

Source: Authored by Gerhard Erasmus, TRALAC, 24 Jan 2022


[1] Art 22 AfCFTA Agreement.

[2] Constitutional systems based on monism, may provide otherwise but will have other requirements to ensure that the executive branch of government respects the powers of the legislature.

[3] https://www.osce.org/files/f/documents/a/6/24649.pdf

Global Supply Chains Making a Huge Bet on Blockchain

System Shock: The $50 Trillion Industry Making a Huge Bet on Blockchain

Blockchain may one day eliminate inefficiencies and lack of transparency in supply chains. While slow in coming, this revolution would benefit not only customers and brands, but the “invisible” workers who power global trade.

In this episode of Bloomberg’s System Shock, we explore how cumbersome, paperwork-bound supply chains—like one stretching from kitchen refrigerators in Europe and the U.S. all the way back to a small farmer in Ecuador—are being transformed by that most modern of technologies.

Source: Bloomberg, System Shock, Gloria Kurnik, 26 January 2022

WCO supports the launch of the Global NTFC Forum 2022

The World Customs Organization (WCO) has joined hands, once again, with partner Annex D+ organizations (GATF, ITC, OECD, UNECE, UNESCAP, WBG and WTO) in supporting the Global Forum 2022 for National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs). The Forum is being held from 1 to 4 February 2022 in a virtual mode and led by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). It has brought together more than 500 participants, around half of which are members of their NTFCs.

In the high-level opening session, the speakers agreed on the need to ensure well-functioning, holistic and dynamic NTFCs, with their critical role in facilitating trade especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, through collaborative arrangements amongst all relevant public and private sector stakeholders. Embracing digital tools, the e-commerce growth and the importance of MSMEs and women traders were also highlighted by the speakers.

In his video address, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, the Secretary General of the WCO emphasized the importance of trade facilitation during the COVID-19 pandemic recovery phase. Through simplifying and standardizing border procedures and creating transparent and predictable conditions for trade, Customs administrations facilitate legitimate business that, in turn, increases economic growth and job opportunities.

Secretary General Mikuriya mentioned a survey carried out in 2021, where the WCO took stock of the situation in the area of NTFCs, including the challenges and opportunities observed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many NTFCs have put their work on hold, due to the inability to meet in person. However, in some instances NTFCs played an important role in addressing facilitation priorities during the pandemic, and have benefited from the sense of urgency generated by the crisis.

Dr. Mikuriya emphasized the need to strengthen the partnership among all relevant government authorities for improving border agency cooperation, which is essential in emergency situations. He reiterated the need to foster the dialogue and collaboration with the business community and underscored the private sector contribution to digitization, to conducting the Time Release Studies and in advancing Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) programmes, while taking into consideration the specific challenges of MSMEs.

The importance of increased diversity and inclusion in trade facilitation reforms, including improving the conditions for women traders was also highlighted. The WCO supports this agenda through its Network for Gender Equality and Diversity, amongst others.

The WCO reiterated its commitment to the TFA agenda in developing and least developed country Members through the WCO Mercator Programme.

The NTFC Forum was made possible with the support of the United Kingdom’s Her Majesty Customs & Revenue (HMRC) through the HMRC-WCO-UNCTAD Trade Facilitation Capacity Building Programme, which brings together the WCO and UNCTAD in a partnership for TFA implementation.

The whole address of the Secretary General can be found here.

Africa and the adoption of HS2022

Picture: Samendra Singh on Unsplash

The new edition of the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System 2022 (HS2022) entered into force on the 1st of January 2022. This development means that Customs tariffs, associated Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) management systems as well as accompanying Harmonised System (HS) tools and instruments must have been successfully migrated from the previous edition (HS2017) to the new version (HS2022).

A few weeks prior to entry into force of HS2022, African countries’ experiences in this regard still indicated widely ranging inconsistencies and discrepancies in the application of the HS in general. Whilst all the Contracting Parties were expected to have fully migrated to the HS2017 by then, apparently some had not yet done so. The majority of those were still either using HS2012 or even HS2007, whilst some had huge delays in rolling out HS2017. Only 30 African countries had successfully migrated to HS2017 and were already applying it. At the launch of the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) during the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union on the AfCFTA in Niamey, Niger held on the 7th of July 2019, HS2017 was already in its third year. At that time, half of the African Union Member States were still to ratify the AfCFTA.

Source: TRALAC, Rwatida Mafurutu, 1 February 2022

Pakistan Customs Joins TradeLens

By joining the blockchain-underpinned platform TradeLens, Pakistan Single Window is supporting Customs in modernizing its import-export documentation through a safe & secure, paperless, digital solution to strengthen its controls against trade-based money laundering.

On 20 December 2021, On behalf of Pakistan Customs, the Pakistan Single Window Company today signed an agreement with TradeLens, a blockchain-underpinned logistics platform supported by 5 of the 6 largest ocean carriers globally, to digitize import-export documentation of the containerized cargo moving in and out of the country. Pakistan’s international trade ecosystem is being rapidly transformed through the introduction of technology driven initiatives led by the Pakistan Single Window and the country’s authorities recognize the potential benefits of digitizing supply chains for efficiencies, enhanced transparency, and data-driven decision making.

Advisor to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Mr. Shaukat Tarin added, “Joining the TradeLens platform is allowing us to enhance our ecosystem in a way that all the involved stakeholders get access to a transparent and secure platform that makes processes more efficient.”

Cross-border containerized supply chains are some of the largest and most complex business ecosystems in the world today. It is not uncommon for 30 independent parties, 100 people and up to 200 exchanges of information to be connected to a single shipment. With increased complexity comes increased cost. Shippers or beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) need consistent, auditable and immutable data from multiple sources to effectively manage their supply chains.

The authorization to sign the collaboration came from the PSW Governing Council chaired by Mr. Shaukat Tarin. The Chief Executive Officer of PSW Aftab Haider formally signed the agreement with Irtaza Hussain, the Regional Head of Network for TradeLens at IBM.

PSW integration with TradeLens will help Pakistan Customs and other trade regulators to improve their operational efficiency and create value through the blockchain platform. The immutability of Blockchain-underpinned document information is important in the identification of illegal activities, as well as, improving the smooth operation of legal trade.

Marvin Erdly, Head of TradeLens at IBM. commented “The growth of the TradeLens’ network is evidence that participants from all across the supply chain ecosystem can derive significant value through digital collaboration.  Pakistan now joins an increasing number of connected Customs Authorities on the TradeLens platform exploring innovative solutions to enhance global trade access and enhance process efficiencies for all involved”.  

TradeLens is a neutral platform brings together data from the entire global supply chain ecosystem including shippers and cargo owners, 3PLs and freight forwarders, intermodal operators, customs and government authorities, ports and terminals, and several ocean carriers. This data allows TradeLens and its network partners to modernize manual and paper-based documents by replacing them with blockchain-enabled digital solutions. It also allows the network partners to provide their customers with deeper visibility into the entire journey for their cargo from origin to destination and reduce uncertainty allowing for better planning and reduced inventory costs. TradeLens welcomed it’s first network member in Pakistan, Al-Hamd International Container Terminal, earlier this year.  

Source: TradeLens, 28 December 2021

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

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.