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

EU – Import Control System 2 (ICS2)

The European Union makes it a top priority to ensure the security of its citizens and single market. Every year trillions of Euros worth of goods are imported into EU, with the EU-27 now accounting for around 15 % of the world’s trade in goods. The European Union is implementing a new customs pre-arrival security and safety programme, underpinned by a large-scale advance cargo information system – Import Control System 2 (ICS2). The programme is one of the main contributors towards establishing an integrated EU approach to reinforce customs risk management under the common risk management framework (CRMF).

The pre-arrival security and safety programme will support effective risk-based customs controls whilst facilitating free flow of legitimate trade across the EU external borders. It represents the first line of defence in terms of protection of the EU internal market and the EU consumers. The new programme will remodel the existing process in terms of IT, legal, customs risk management/controls and trade operational perspectives.

The EU’s new advance cargo information system ICS2 supports implementation of this new customs safety and security regulatory regime aimed to better protect single market and EU citizens. It will collect data about all goods entering the EU prior to their arrival. Economic Operators (EOs) will have to declare safety and security data to ICS2, through the Entry Summary Declaration (ENS). The obligation to start filing such declarations will not be the same for all EOs. It will depend on the type of services that they provide in the international movement of goods and is linked to the three release dates of ICS2 (15 March 2021, 1 March 2023, and 1 March 2024).

Advance cargo information and risk analysis will enable early identification of threats and help customs authorities to intervene at the most appropriate point in the supply chain.

ICS2 introduces more efficient and effective EU customs security and safety capabilities that will:

  • Increase protection of EU citizens and the internal market against security and safety threats;
  • Allow EU Customs authorities to better identify high-risk consignments and intervene at the most appropriate point in supply chain;
  • Support proportionate, targeted customs measures at the external borders in crisis response scenarios;
  • Facilitate cross-border clearance for the legitimate trade;
  • Simplify the exchange of information between Economic Operators (EOs) and EU Customs Authorities.

For more information on the ICS2 programme, refer to the EU Webpage here!

Source: European Union

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: World Customs Organisation

German and Belgian Customs Officials seize 23 tonnes of cocaine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Daily Sabah, 24 February 2021

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

Photo by Noel Broda on Unsplash

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

The Risks

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

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

Key recommendations:

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

Suggested recommendations include:

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

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

Download the Document via this hyperlink

Source: International Chamber of Commerce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joint WCO-ICAO Pamphlet

Source: WCO website, 16 February 2021

SARS – Massive Rhino Horn bust worth R53-million

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: South African Revenue Service, 4 February 2021

WCO – HS Classification for Vaccines and other associated medical supplies

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

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

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

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

Source: WCO, 29 January 2021

International Customs Day 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you all a happy International Customs Day!

Dr. Kunio Mikuriya

WCO Secretary General

26 January 2021

Fate of a Ham Sandwich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture courtesy – Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Version of the WCO DM (version 3.10.0) released

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

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

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

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

Source: World Customs Organisation

UK and US sign Customs agreement to ensure continued smooth trade

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

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

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

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman said:

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

US Ambassador Robert Wood Johnson said:

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

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

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

Source: UK Government, 16 December 2020

US$300m upgrade planned for Beitbridge border post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Zimbabwe Herald, 9 December 2020

Data is King!

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

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

The paper referred to is titled –

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

The Abstract of the document reads as follows –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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