Korea Customs Service (KCS), represented by its Commissioner, Mr. Suk-Hwan Roh, and the World Customs Organization (WCO), represented by its Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, completed the signing process for a Memorandum of Understanding on establishing a WCO Regional Dog Training Centre (RDTC) in Incheon, Republic of Korea.
The new RDTC in Incheon is equipped with high-quality facilities, which include indoor and outdoor kennels, training buildings with simulation training zones and veterinary clinic, etc. Its experienced instructors will conduct professional detector dog training programmes for Customs officials responsible for canine-related duties in the region.
The Centre will serve as a hub for the region’s Customs administrations to share best practices and expertise, and will also provide assistance and advice to other administrations through detector dog training and procurement of detector dogs.
“Detector dogs are of paramount importance in Customs duties,” stressed Secretary General Mikuriya. “Thanks to the professional experts, first-rate facilities and specialized and tailor-made training programmes provided by the KCS, I am confident in the future success of the new RDTC,” he added.
Detector dogs are an ideal tool for screening people and goods in a timely manner, as they have one of the most acute senses of smell in the animal kingdom. This enables them to rapidly detect the presence of prohibited or regulated goods (including drugs, explosives, currency, CITES items, etc.), with minimal disruption to the movement of people and goods. Detector dogs are one of the most important operational resources for identifying and combating Customs fraud worldwide.
With a view to maintaining high standards and building a global network for canine enforcement, to date the WCO has certified 16 WCO RDTCs established in different regions. The goal of these RDTCs is to provide professional canine-related training and capacity building activities for Customs administrations in each of the respective regions and to facilitate cooperation between them.
Germany and Belgium have seized 23 tonnes of cocaine in the biggest-ever haul of the drug in Europe, German customs said Wednesday.
“The enormous amount of cocaine would have brought in several billion euros (dollars) in street sales,” the customs office said in a statement.
German officers had discovered 16 tonnes of cocaine hidden in containers from Paraguay at the port of Hamburg on Feb. 12.
Joint investigations into the stash with Dutch officers led authorities to swoop on another 7.2 tonnes in cocaine at the port of Antwerp in Belgium, German customs said.
A 28-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday in the Netherlands in connection with both the German and Dutch hauls totaling 23 tonnes, it added.
Customs officers at the busy port in Hamburg had decided to take a closer look at the Paraguayan containers after noticing “clear irregularities” with its contents – tin cans that were meant to be filled with putty.
“Beyond a layer of genuine goods packed just behind the container door, numerous tin cans were in fact filled with other goods,” said customs.
Investigators ordered the containers unloaded, and found the cocaine stash in over 1,700 tin cans.
“This is the largest amount of cocaine ever seized in Europe and one of the largest single seizures worldwide,” German customs said, referring to the Hamburg haul.
In all, 102 tonnes of cocaine headed for the European continent were intercepted last year by an international law enforcement project co-implemented by the United Nations.
Herewith a 2020 update of the ICC BASCAP report assessing the environment and highlighting trends in counterfeiting and other forms of illicit trade facilitated within free trade zones.
Free Trade Zones (FTZs) provide significant opportunities for legitimate business and play a critical role in global trade as well as economic growth for the host nation. However, our updated research has continued to confirm that insufficient oversight remains a major enabler of illicit activities. Since the publication of our previous 2013 report, there have not been vast improvements in limiting criminal activities within FTZs. In fact, the Covid-19 pandemic has increased vulnerability for abuses by criminal actors who take advantage of supply chain shortages and increased demands as well as relaxed oversight often because of such things as quarantines that have softened Customs control.
Counterfeiters use transit or transhipment of goods, through multiple, geographically diverse FTZs for no other purpose than to disguise the illicit nature of the products. Once introduced into an FTZ, counterfeit goods may undergo a series of economic operations, including assembly, manufacturing, processing, warehousing, re-packaging, and re-labelling. Once completed, the goods can be imported directly to the national territory of the hosting state or re-exported to another country for distribution or to another FTZ, where the process is repeated.
Our 2020 report promotes a set of specific policy and legislative recommendations on how to preserve and expand the benefits of FTZs for legitimate traders and protect the public and honest businesses from predatory practices. These recommendations are based on a review of the international and national legal frameworks governing FTZs, including how they are implemented and enforced.
Suggested recommendations include:
empowering Customs with jurisdiction over day-to-day operations within FTZs
strengthening relationship between Customs and FTZs
clarifying and declaring that FTZs remain under the jurisdiction of the national Customs authority
enhancing data sharing between Customs and the private sector
strengthening national government adherence to international conventions and implementation of international standards
legislatively ensuring that strict penalties are in place, including criminal sanctions where appropriate, against perpetrators of illegal activities in FTZs
that manufacturers and shippers recognize and use the ICC World Chambers Foundation’s International Certificates of Origin (COs) Accreditation Chain which is a program that accredits chambers of commerce issuing COs wishing to guarantee their commitment to the highest level of quality, implementing transparent and accountable issuance and verification procedures. Accredited chambers will receive a distinctive internationally recognized quality classification, reinforcing their integrity and credibility as competent trusted third parties in the issuance of COs.
Additionally, the new document also provides specific recommendations such as drawing on international agreements, lessons learned from effective and ineffective national legislation, the experience of IP rights holders, and legislative and regulatory measures to enforce intellectual property right protection in FTZs. These specific recommendations are delineated in the report for action by the World Customs Organization, World Trade Organization, national governments, and FTZ operators. Effective implementation of the measures delineated for each of these bodies will go a long way in securing FTZs from illicit traders.
Today, the World Customs Organization (WCO) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) released their Joint WCO-ICAO Guiding Principles for Pre-Loading Advance Cargo Information and Joint WCO-ICAO Guidelines on Alignment of the Customs Authorized Economic Operator and Aviation Security Regulated Agent/Known Consignor Programmes. These Guiding Principles and Guidelines are a result of continuous joint efforts over the last 10 years, following serious threats and vulnerabilities to international trade supply chains.
“In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to facilitate safe and secure vaccine distribution, strong collaboration among Customs, Civil Aviation Authorities and the relevant stakeholders is highly recommended,” said the WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya. “WCO and ICAO Members are encouraged to make the best use of advance cargo information for risk assessment as well as to align partnership and security programmes to ensure secure and efficient air cargo supply chains,” he added.
With the new Joint WCO-ICAO Guiding Principles for Pre-Loading Advance Cargo Information (PLACI), another layer is being added to the multi-layered approach to Aviation Security in order to detect Improvised Explosive Devices/Improvised Incendiary Devices (IED/IID) in air cargo. These PLACI principles should not be used as a standalone method of Aviation Security (AVSEC) screening or air cargo security control, but rather to perform an additional assessment of the potential Aviation Security risks represented by a consignment.
These Joint Guiding Principles comprise several key and specific principles to meet the needs and capabilities of both regulators and industry, and provide guidance for the risk analysis process. Combined with intelligence and other information, PLACI consignment data enables regulators to perform an initial assessment of the potential risks posed by a consignment. The results of the initial assessment may also indicate the need for additional action.
These Guidelines aim to assist WCO and ICAO Members wishing to assess the similarities between their Customs and AVSEC security programmes, with the intention of further aligning them. This collaborative work should ultimately lead to simplification of procedures and eradication of duplicate security requirements and controls, to the benefit of the authorities and the airline industry.
SARS’ Customs unit made a bust of rhino horn with an estimated value of R53 172 000, in a shipment destined for Malaysia.
While conducting manifest profiling at the courier facilities, the Customs Detector Dog Unit at O.R.Tambo International Airport selected a suspicious shipment declared as ‘HP Cartridges Developers’.
The three-piece shipment was taken to the X-ray scanner for non-intrusive inspection, where the image analysis reflected objects resembling the shape of rhino horns. The shipment was taken for physical inspection and upon inspection of the boxes, 18 pieces of rhino horn were found concealed in traditional clothing. The goods weighed 63kg.
This is the fourth rhino horn bust by SARS Customs at the O.R.Tambo International Airport between July 2020 and February 2021. The overall weight of the rhino horn seized in these four cases is 277.30 kg with an estimated value of R 234 114 206.
The Customs officers immediately called the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (Hawks) to the scene, who confiscated the shipment for further investigation.
In his reaction to this massive seizure of the rhino horn, Commissioner Edward Kieswetter congratulated the Customs officers for their excellent work. He warned the perpetrators of crime that SARS, working with other law enforcement agencies, would spare no efforts in confronting and dealing decisively with any criminal malfeasance. Those that are involved in such egregious and merciless killing of rhinoceros and mutilating them will be brought to book.
He furthermore said, “Those who are determined to destroy the rich natural endowment of our country, which is a common treasure and heritage for all, that we should look after for future generations, will be met with unwavering commitment of our officers to enforce the law.”
Source: South African Revenue Service, 4 February 2021
In this new stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which vaccines are ready for distribution, the WCO Council has tasked the Secretariat to work with relevant international organizations to develop guidance materials to facilitate the cross-border movement of situationally critical medicines and vaccines, including highlighting existing HS classification for critical medicines, vaccines and associated medical supplies necessary for their manufacture, distribution and use.
The WCO’s Tariff and Trade Affairs Directorate, in close cooperation with the World Health Organization, has prepared a new HS classification reference for vaccines and the medical consumables normally used during the vaccination process, including the equipment used for their storage and transportation.
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!
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.”
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).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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”.
“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.
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.”
The European Commission has today proposed a new initiative that will make it easier for different authorities involved in goods clearance to exchange electronic information submitted by traders, who will be able to submit the information required for import or export of goods only once. The so-called ‘EU Single Window Environment for Customs‘ aims to enhance cooperation and coordination between different authorities, in order to facilitate the automatic verification of non-customs formalities for goods entering or leaving the EU.
The Single Window aims to digitalise and streamline processes, so that businesses will ultimately no longer have to submit documents to several authorities through different portals. Today’s proposal is the first concrete deliverable of the recently adopted Action Plan on taking the Customs Union to the next level. It launches an ambitious project to modernise border controls over the coming decade, in order to facilitate trade, improve safety and compliance checks, and reduce the administrative burden for companies.
Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for the Economy, said: “Digitalisation, globalisation and the changing nature of trade present both risks and opportunities when it comes to goods crossing the EU’s borders. To rise to these challenges, customs and other competent authorities must act as one, with a more holistic approach to the many checks and procedures needed for smooth and safe trade. Today’s proposal is the first step towards a fully paperless and integrated customs environment and better cooperation between all authorities at our external borders. I urge all Member States to play their part in making it a true success story.”
Each year, the Customs Union facilitates the trade of more than €3.5 trillion worth of goods. Efficient customs clearance and controls are essential to allow trade to flow smoothly while also protecting EU citizens, businesses and the environment. The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the importance of having agile yet robust customs processes, and this will become ever more important as trade volumes keep on increasing and new challenges related to digitalisation and e-commerce, such as new forms of fraud, emerge.
Currently, the formalities required at the EU’s external borders often involve many different authorities in charge of different policy areas, such as health and safety, the environment, agriculture, fisheries, cultural heritage and market surveillance and product compliance. As a result, businesses have to submit information to several different authorities, each with their own portal and procedures. This is cumbersome and time-consuming for traders and reduces the capacity of authorities to act in a joined-up way in combatting risks.
Today’s proposal is the first step in creating a digital framework for enhanced cooperation between all border authorities, through one Single Window. The Single Window will enable businesses and traders to provide data in one single portal in an individual Member State, thereby reducing duplication, time and costs. Customs and other authorities will then be able to collectively use this data, allowing for a fully coordinated approach to goods clearance and a clearer overview at EU level of the goods that are entering or leaving the EU.
This is an ambitious project that will entail significant investment at both EU and Member State level, in order to be fully implemented over the next decade or so. The Commission will support Member States in this preparation, where possible, including through funding from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, to enable them to reap the full, long-term benefits of the Single Window.
Customs are often perceived as one of the most corrupt institutions in developing countries. Though difficult and complex, fighting corruption in customs is possible but requires an approach that is less centered on transposition of norms and practices from developed countries.
In the World Bank’s recently published Global Report on Anti-Corruption, we argue that addressing the root causes of corruption goes beyond legal reforms, code of ethics or IT system upgrades. Currently, there is no lack of prescriptions, norms, or standards to address corruption in customs. For instance, the Kyoto Convention advocates standardization and simplification of customs procedures, codes of ethics and conduct, and measures focusing on wage incentives and staff rotation. Although these types of initiatives are important, the results have often been disappointing in developing economy contexts.
It is important to establish a robust legal framework and measures such as simplification of processes and import policies or automation but they must be supplemented with other comprehensive approaches that address the root causes of corruption.
The obstacle of social norms Corruption is often deeply embedded in the social norms and expectations of political and social life. Such norms provide the unwritten rules of behavior. In countries riddled with corruption, laws often fail to regulate conduct, so the prevailing social norms guide many interactions by dictating the rules of the game. Thus, there may also be social sanctions for violating these norms.
Rwanda and Georgia had been confronted with pervasive corruption in customs for years. With new leadership in the 2000s in both countries, a comprehensive approach to tackle corruption in customs was launched with some drastic measures. In both countries, a combination of measures addressing the broader social roots of corruption and technical measures were implemented. The experiences from Georgia and Rwanda are, of course, context specific and refer to particular events in the two countries’ history. Still, some lessons of broader relevance can be identified.
In Georgia, the tax code was simplified, including the elimination of many tax loopholes and a reduction in the number of taxes and import tariffs. One-stop windows were introduced for customs clearing procedures. In Rwanda, reforms led to significant improvements in collection efforts and auditing procedures. The reforms in these countries were part of larger and radical public sector reforms, with a clear message from the political leadership that corruption will not be tolerated.
Discredited public agencies were dismantled and replaced with new ones. The reform packages involved a drastic reshaping of the bureaucracies with simplification of administrative procedures. Opportunities and the space to engage in corrupt practices were then dramatically reduced. The new rules were strictly enforced based on effective monitoring mechanisms and little or no tolerance of deviations.
Local ownership, leadership and data analytics Local ownership is essential for the sustainability of anti-corruption reforms in customs, and it is important to offer political backing to reformers. At early stage of reforms, it is important to have measures that lead to an increase in customs revenue as it helps to establish credibility and trust in the reform process for high-level officials.
However, sustainable change demands effort, commitment and leadership over time from heads of customs.
Finally, the emergence of data analytics tools and individual performance-based indicators, such as average processing time between inspectors in the same port, can help detect corrupt inspectors based on their practices.