WCO – 2021 Illicit Trade Report

The World Customs Organization (WCO) issues its 2021 Illicit Trade Report (ITR), an annual publication which offers a comprehensive study of illicit trade flows through an in-depth analysis of seizure data and case studies voluntarily submitted by Member Customs administrations worldwide. The information captured in the ITR provides essential insight into the occurrences of illicit trade, thereby assisting Customs administrations in understanding trends and patterns and making enlightened decisions to secure cross-border trade. 

This year, the analysis provided in this Report is based on data collected from 138 Member administrations. Previously composed of six sections, the Report now covers seven key areas of risk in the context of Customs enforcement: Anti-money laundering and terrorist financing; Cultural heritage; Drugs; Environment; IPR, health and safety; Revenue; and Security.

Overall, this 2021 Report largely focuses on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the flows of illicit trade worldwide and how criminal organizations have adapted and shifted transport and shipment modes of smuggled goods. One common denominator to the different areas covered in this Report, is the increased use of online marketplaces and social media to accommodate both demand and supply during the health crisis. Consequently, seizures in mail consignments are seeing an important increase.

The analysis contained in this Report is mainly based on the collection of data from the WCO Customs Enforcement Network (CEN) — a database of worldwide Customs seizures and offences. The CEN is a vital resource, allowing all WCO Members to access a critical mass of information for analysis of illicit trafficking in the various areas of Customs’ competence. 

However, the CEN database relies heavily on voluntary submissions by Members hence the quantity and quality of the data submitted to the system has its limitations. To overcome these shortcomings and to complement the CEN dataset, the WCO has undertaken a review of the Illicit Trade Report and its methodology. This is an ongoing process and work is still underway until a final product can be delivered next year. 

However, as part of this new methodology, the data and information sources used to elaborate this Report has been enlarged to include various open sources. These sources include official government media outlets, reports published online by Customs administrations and international organizations, and a survey elaborated by the WCO in order to collect additional data from its Members and from its Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILOs).

“The importance of comprehensive data analysis is indisputably a key component to support effective and efficient Customs enforcement activities”, says Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General. “The Illicit Trade Report is a pioneer in terms of data collection and analysis for over twenty years, and as a strong believer in the power of data and Customs digital transformation, I am pleased that we now have the in-house resources and technology to offer such in-depth analysis, further supported by open source information, and the most recent and intelligible data visualizations for this edition of the Report”.

WCO News – June 2022 Edition

The WCO has published the 98th 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 ongoing discussions and initiatives that aim to “green” trade as well as on the role of Customs in supporting this ambition. Given that one question that comes up repeatedly is how to increase the available data for environmentally friendly goods and ensure they are specified by name under their own Harmonized System (HS) code, the Dossier also provides answers to some of the most common queries about the HS and how to tailor it to meet changing needs.

The “Panorama” section looks at a broad variety of initiatives such as developing an anti-corruption strategy, building Customs-Business partnership, launching research and development programmes and placing scientists at ports of entry to identify unknown substances. 

The “Focus” section brings together articles dealing with gender equality and diversity. The WCO Secretariat presents the latest developments at the WCO in these areas, while two administrations share their experience of creating an inclusive workplace culture where diversity is celebrated and everyone is treated fairly.

Lastly, in the “Point of View” section representatives from the private sector share highlights of some technological breakthroughs aimed at improving Customs controls while facilitating trade and, in one case, protecting importers’ information.

SARS Head Accreditation and Licensing, elected Vice Chair for WCO SAFE Working Group

Ms Rae Vivier, Head Accreditation and Licensing at the South African Revenue Service, has been elected by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) Member States as a Vice Chair for the WCO SAFE Working Group.   

The role of the WCO’s SAFE Working Group is to advise, as appropriate, the Policy Commission, the Permanent Technical Committee and the Secretary General on the full range of issues concerning the SAFE Framework of Standards. Such issues include matters relating to implementation and amendments concerning the SAFE Framework and further developing and monitoring other World Customs Organization (WCO) initiatives and related Customs matters that impact the operation of the SAFE Framework of Standards.

In accepting her election at the SAFE Working Group Meeting which took place on the 11 – 13 April 2022, Ms Vivier indicated that she was truly humbled by her election to the position and that it is an inordinate privilege to serve all 184 members and the WCO for the next 4 years.

Even though South Africa has been instrumental in the development of key instruments and tools designed by the WCO, it is a first time that the African continent will be holding such a leadership role in this key international platform i.e., SAFE Working Group.  The Vice Chair position will subsequently assume the role of Chair of the SAFE Working Group after two years.

Source: SARS

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

WCO/WTO – “The role of advanced technologies in cross-border trade: A customs perspective”

The WCO and the World Trade Organization (WTO) held a webinar to launch their joint publication on Customs use of advance technologies.  The event attracted more than 700 attendees and provided insights into how advanced technologies can help Customs administrations facilitate the flow of goods across borders. The publication titled, “The role of advanced technologies in cross-border trade: A customs perspective” provides the current state of play and sheds light on the opportunities and challenges Customs face when deploying these technologies.

The publication outlines the key findings of WCO’s 2021 Annual Consolidated Survey and its results on Customs’ use of advanced technologies such as blockchain, the internet of things, data analytics and artificial intelligence to facilitate trade and enhance safety, security and fair revenue collection. 

The joint publication highlights the benefits that can result from the adoption of these advanced technologies, such as enhanced transparency of procedures, sharing of information amongst all relevant stakeholders in real time, better risk management, and improved data quality, leading to greater efficiency in Customs processes and procedures.

In his remarks, WCO Deputy Secretary General Ricardo Treviño Chapa said, “Technologies will assist implementation of international trade facilitation rules and standards, such as the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention and the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. We are therefore delighted to be partnering with the WTO, to ensure that our work in assisting our Members’ digital transformation journeys is complementary, that we bring all relevant partners to the same table, and that we avoid duplication.”

In her opening remarks, WTO Deputy Director-General Anabel González noted, “Advanced technologies offer customs an opportunity to take a big leap forward on trade facilitation. Take blockchain. Its widespread application could help us make trade both more transparent and less paper intensive. That would reduce trade costs, which is good news for everyone, especially small businesses, which are disproportionately affected by red tape at the border.”

The webinar presented the main findings from the WCO/WTO paper and featured presentations by BrazilNigeriaSingapore and the Inter-American Development Bank. For a greater uptake of these technologies, the speakers underlined the importance of continuous sensitization of Customs and other stakeholders, the need for interoperability and implementation of international standards, the relevance of engaging in dialogues at international level, as well as having a strategy and space for innovation and testing at national level.

The full publication can be accessed here.

WCO News – First Edition 2022

WCO News features an article by the Secretariat on the WCO Data Model – the common language for border management-related processes which enable information to flow seamlessly across different IT systems. The article focuses on the latest data requirements and processes which have been included in the Model through collaboration with stakeholders in the maritime, food safety, waste management and postal sectors. In addition, it offers some practical guidance to Customs administrations which are considering adopting the Model and calls on economic operators to use it in their commercial processes also, as it covers some of the data elements found in commercial documents such as the invoice, packing list and bill of lading.

This is followed by an article by the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) introducing various projects dealing with the collection, analysis and sharing of data. The author also emphasizes that a culture of innovation has emerged within BURS, and that the working environment supports creative thinking and the generation of new or improved products, services and processes.

The third article presents the results of, and lessons learned from, the first International Survey on Customs Administration (ISOCA), which was co-managed by the WCO and the IMF with the aim of collecting quantitative and qualitative data on Customs administrations and enabling comparisons to be made between countries that share common features. A higher number of participants is required for the Survey to provide a global view of the roles played by Customs administrations, and of their practices. I hope more administrations will participate in future editions of the Survey, which will be simplified to strike a better balance between the need for accurate data and the burden of data collection.

In the next article, Dominican Republic Customs introduces the tools it has developed to measure the time required to release goods and support the Government’s Release in 24 Hours (D24H) Programme, whose objective is to turn the Dominican Republic into the logistics epicenter “par excellence” of the Caribbean region.

A further article takes us to Niger, where the Customs Administration recently financed a study into the use of satellite imagery to analyze cross-border trade flows. The article presents the information collected and explains how it will be used to reorganize operational services and provide efficient links within the territory.

The final article in this Dossier sheds light on the need for harmonization in the digitization of trade documents. This article by the ICC introduces the ICC’s Digital Standards Initiative (DSI), a collaborative cross-industry effort to advance the digitization of trade globally through the adoption of a set of standards.

Many other articles published in this edition of the WCO News directly or indirectly touch on data and on the role that information technology plays in making us more efficient. And this is true of all the editions of our magazine. You have heard or read it many times: in today’s world, it’s all about data. Data is strategic, and we all stand to gain by sharing experience and expertise on how best to manage it in a holistic way.

Source: WCOOMD, March 2022

WCO shares good practices for drafting a rules of origin tool with the AfCFTA

At the invitation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, the World Customs Organization (WCO) gave a presentation on international standards for the drafting of tools and instruments on rules of origin at a virtual workshop on the drafting of the AfCFTA Rules of Origin Handbook held on Monday 21 February 2022. 

In her welcoming address, the Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on Rules of Origin expressed her profound gratitude and thanks to the AfCFTA’s partner organizations, such as the WCO and UNCTAD, as well as to the Regional Economic Communities (COMESA, EAC, ECOWAS and the SADC) which had kindly accepted the invitation to share their experience of drafting rules of origin handbooks.

She reminded those taking part that Article 8.3 of the Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area laid down that any additional instruments, within the scope of that Agreement, deemed necessary, are to be concluded in furtherance of the objectives of the AfCFTA and will, upon adoption, form an integral part of the Agreement. In accordance with Article 13 of the Protocol on Trade in Goods, discussions among the negotiating bodies had led to the adoption of Annex 2 on Rules of Origin and of close to 88% of the tariff lines constituting Annex IV. She also emphasized that both of those legal documents on rules of origin had to be made operational through the use of the Rules of Origin Handbook.

With a view to the implementation of Annex 2 on Rules of Origin of the AfCFTA Protocol on Trade in Goods, she went on to stress that the 8th Meeting of the Council of Ministers, held on 28 January 2022, had decided that the work on drafting the AfCFTA’s Rules of Origin Handbook had to be given priority.

Accordingly, under Item 3 on the Agenda, the WCO gave a talk on the drafting of rules of origin handbooks, presenting some practical cases that explained the international standards applied in drawing up its tools. There was then a question-and-answer session in which the delegates from Customs administrations, trade and industry were able to have a fuller exchange on the subject of good practices on which the AfCFTA could draw in finalizing the drafting of the Rules of Origin Handbook.

The workshop was attended by more than 150 delegates, for whom it was an opportunity to learn more about good practices in relation to the drafting of operational handbooks on rules of origin, with a view to making proposals for improvements to the AfCFTA handbook, on the basis, too, of the experiences of the WCO, UNCTAD and the African RECs.

The workshop came before the 5th Meeting of the Sub-Committee on Rules of Origin to be held from 22 to 25 February 2022, at which the handbook in question would have to be drawn up in order to facilitate the implementation of AfCFTA rules of origin and thereby boost intra-African trade.

Source: WCOOMD, 24 February 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.

AfCFTA, EU and WCO join forces to support digital transformation of Customs work

Picture: Damien Patkowski

On 27 January 2022, representatives of the WCO, the AfCFTA Secretariat and the European Commission held a virtual meeting to review the state of play in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The meeting focused on the trade liberalization mechanism envisaged by the AfCFTA Agreement, the management of tariff offers and a possibility of setting up a continental digital platform to handle information on applicable tariff rates covering all African countries.

In opening the meeting, Mrs. Demitta Chinwude Gyang, Head of Customs at the AfCFTA Secretariat, expressed her appreciation for the support provided by the WCO and the EU on the implementation of the Harmonized System (HS) under the EU-WCO Programme for HS in Africa (HS-Africa Programme), funded by the EU. She emphasised that the trade under the AfCFTA had already started from January 2021, and 44 tariff offers had been submitted by AfCFTA signatories already. She explained that the AfCFTA Secretariat intended to create a web-based ‘tariff book’ whereby all the necessary information on tariff offers and applicable tariff rates would be made available in a user-friendly and easily accessible manner.

The representatives of the WCO and the EU welcomed the AfCFTA initiative to set up a digital tariff platform at the continental level, recalling that electronic tariffs had been successfully implemented in some African countries in the recent past, with the support of the HS-Africa Programme. They stressed that such digital tools contributed significantly to trade facilitation efforts of Customs administrations and Regional Economic Communities by providing data that were vital for trade operators. The EU and the WCO reiterated their firm commitment to offering continued support to the AfCFTA in that regard, under the HS-Africa Programme.

In conclusion, the meeting participants agreed that the initiative should start by developing terms of reference for the implementation of the AfCFTA digital ‘tariff book’ and launching a tendering process to select a service provider that would carry out the required technical work. It was felt that this project would contribute to scaling up digital transformation of Customs, announced as the theme of the year 2022, and create a foundation for the next steps in the establishment of the Customs union on the African continent.

For more details, please, contact capacity.building@wcoomd.org.

International Customs Day 2022

The WCO dedicates 2022 to the Scaling up Customs Digital Transformation by Embracing a Data Culture and Building a Data Ecosystem

Traditionally, every year, the Customs community comes together on 26 January to mark International Customs Day. This day of celebration is a unique opportunity for WCO Members, the WCO Secretariat and global Customs’ partners to reflect on a particular theme and to act upon it. 

Thus, throughout 2022, under the slogan “Scaling up Customs Digital Transformation by Embracing a Data Culture and Building a Data Ecosystem”, the Customs community will be focusing on how to operate in a fully digital environment and create an operating model that captures and exploits data from across the trade ecosystem.

Over the years, digital technology has evolved rapidly and Customs can now tap into data from other government agencies, commercially available databases, and open-source information platforms such as digitized global public records and multilingual news sources. 

The extent to which data can be used effectively depends on various factors surrounding data ethics, including privacy, commercial secrecy and legal issues regarding the use of data by Customs and Tax administrations, and the importance assigned to innovation in public administrations. 

To build data ecosystems, or consolidate existing ones, the following enabling actions may be considered:

  • establishing formal data governance to ensure the relevance, accuracy and timeliness of data;
  • making use of the standards developed by the WCO and other institutions regarding data format and data exchange;
  • providing appropriate management of data to ensure that the right people have access to the right data, and that data protection regulations are respected; and,
  • adopting progressive approaches, such as data analytics, to collect and successfully exploit data to drive decision-making.

A robust data culture empowers people to ask questions, challenge ideas and rely on detailed insights, not just intuition or instinct, to make decisions.

In order to nurture a data-driven culture, administrations need to enhance the data-literacy of their staff – in other words, their ability to interpret and analyze data accurately. 

Customs administrations should integrate data science into their curriculums for newly recruited officers and participate in the development of distance learning courses to familiarize Customs officers with the collection and analysis of data in order to forge a data-driven culture. Staff also need to understand the bigger picture, namely the impact of Customs on the effective protection of society, trade facilitation and fair revenue collection. 

On the other hand, Customs administrations are invited to consider leveraging data in their relationships with other actors along the supply chain, as well as making data available to the public and academia as a means of enhancing transparency, stimulating the production of knowledge and enabling dialogue with civil society.

Sharing data analysis with other government agencies increases the role and visibility of Customs in policy-making and in obtaining necessary resources, including donor funding. Disseminating Customs data and information in society is part of governments’ response to the general demand for open governance.

To support Customs administrations, the WCO Secretariat has placed data-related topics on the agendas of several committees and working groups, organized awareness-raising seminars, developed e-learning modules, drafted a Capacity Building Framework for Data Analytics which was adopted by the WCO Council in December 2020, issued practical publications and published articles in the WCO News Magazine.

Moreover, a community of experts has been established, under the name of BACUDA (BAnd of CUstoms Data Analysts), which brings together Customs and data scientists with the objective of developing data analytics methodologies. 

The Secretariat will continue to investigate ways to collect and share data on Customs administrations with a view to enhancing the way it delivers capacity building, and will continue to undertake data-driven assessments and work with international experts to respond to assistance requests.

More measures will be presented in the WCO Data Strategy that the WCO Secretariat is currently working on. The ambition will be to make data a vernacular language among Customs administrations and between the WCO Secretariat and WCO Members. The road ahead is not an easy one, there will inevitably be challenges along the way, but as we have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Customs community is united, stronger and more resilient in the face of adversity. 

Dr. Kunio Mikuriya

WCO Secretary General

26 January 2022

WCO Data Model 3.11.0 – Online

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for the HS Nomenclature 2022 Edition.

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

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

Global Trade Braces for a Mini Y2K With Customs Code Overhaul

Picture by Kyle Glen

The following article was published in Supply Lines, Bloomberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chemical Weapons?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.