First BRICS Heads of Customs Meeting

Delegates who attended the first BRICS Customs Heads of Customs Meeting [SARS]

Delegates who attended the first BRICS Customs Heads of Customs Meeting [SARS]

At a meeting hosted by the Commissioner near Bela Bela, South Africa from 7 to 8 March 2013, delegations from the Customs Administrations of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) met for the first time. The BRICS Customs administrations exchanged experience and ideas in a spirit of openness so as to identify areas for cooperation so that they can most effectively and efficiently facilitate legitimate trade and combat illicit trade and Customs fraud. From 27 to 28 March, South Africa will also host the BRICS Summit in Durban, to be attended by various Ministers and the BRICS Heads of State.

Key points of discussion, focus and future cooperation –

Customs cooperation
The Heads of Customs committed themselves to consolidating and building on the cooperation that has already been established so that they can collectively curb Customs offences, safeguard the international supply chain and achieve effective enforcement of Customs legislation, while facilitating legitimate trade,both among BRICS countries and also globally.

Capacity building
As part of their cooperation to build Customs capacity in relation to human resources, technologies and procedures,the administrations would look into various practical and innovative solutions and endeavour to share their resources, knowledge and best practices with each other.

Cooperation at multilateral forums
A BRICS Customs mechanism will be established, including attachés networks based in Brussels and other strategic places, to identify issues of common interest, develop common responses and ensure regular engagement and interaction, including before important multilateral meetings.

Customs Mutual Administrative Assistance and the Exchange of Customs Information
The administrations also agreed to ensure that there is an enabling legal basis between them to support intra-BRICS Customs mutual administrative assistance and the exchange of Customs information. Such assistance and exchange will assist in combating illicit trade and protecting revenues and societies.

Facilitation of legitimate trade between BRICS countries
To further facilitate trade and reduce the Customs administrative burden on both trade and the administrations themselves, the administrations will exchange information in various areas of common interest and concern, including on the simplification of Customs procedures and the use of modern technologies and techniques.

The administrations will also work towards possible solutions for achieving mutual recognition of Customs controls and of trader management programs aligned to the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) concept of the World Customs Organization (WCO), establishing Customs interconnectivity and supporting the WCO’s work on developing the Globally Networked Customs (GNC) model.

Opportunities for enforcement cooperation will also be explored, including possible joint actions, information sharing and other enforcement assistance. The use of international instruments developed by the WCO, including Conventions, Recommendations, Decisions and Declarations that support Customs trade facilitation, compliance and enforcement will be actively promoted.

Governance issues
A Governance Framework aligned to the overall BRICS commitments will be established. An annual BRICS Customs Heads meeting has been proposed whose deliberations would be informed to other BRICS forums, including in particular the Summit. Such a BRICS Customs Heads Meeting would be supported by a Customs working group under the guidance of the BRICS Heads of Customs. Source: SARS

X-Ray Scanners – WTO panel rules on EU-China dumping row

Nuctech Fast Scan Vehicle and Container inspection system

Nuctech Fast Scan Vehicle and Container inspection system

Part of the problem here is that the Chinese have a significant market share in this type of equipment. In a short period of 10 years they have outstripped some of the more fancied American and European players in this business. While the dispute in question raises ‘ethical’ questions of the Chinese, it does seem to be a matter of sour grapes.

China’s anti-dumping duties on imports of x-ray security scanners from the EU violated global trade rules, according to a WTO panel ruling that was issued yesterday. [WTO Dispute Settlement, DS425]

Brussels brought the dispute in July 2011 after Beijing imposed duties ranging from 33.5 to 71.8 percent on the x-ray scanners. (See Bridges Weekly, 25 January 2012) The EU exports approximately €70 million of these scanners to China annually.

China imposed the duties after the EU had applied anti-dumping duties on Chinese cargo scanners one year earlier, which some viewed at the time as a “tit-for-tat” move.

The panel report primarily focused on procedural issues in Beijing’s investigation, specifically regarding how China calculated the anti-dumping margin, loosely defined as the difference between the price – or cost – in the foreign market and the price in the importing domestic market.

Beijing included more expensive “high-energy” scanners – which do not “look remotely like” the cheaper scanners, according to the panel report – in calculating the average domestic price, even though only cheaper “low-energy” scanners were exported. The panel found that this price comparison was “not consistent with an objective examination of positive evidence” required under WTO rules.

The panel also found that Beijing did not comply with certain due process and transparency requirements before imposing the duties.

The panel did not rule with the EU on all points, however, noting that Brussels had not established that Beijing had acted inconsistently in certain other procedural matters.

“I expect China to remove the measures immediately,” EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said on Tuesday in response to the panel ruling. “I will not accept tit-for-tat retaliation against European companies through the misuse of trade defence instruments.”

Under WTO rules, both sides have 60 days to appeal the ruling. In a statement, China’s Ministry of Commerce indicated that they would make a serious assessment of the case and reserved the right to appeal.

UCR and GS1 data to meet?

Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General, and Maria Palazzolo, Chief Executive Officer of GS1 Australia and GS1 Board Member, at the GS1 Global Forum 2013

Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General, and Maria Palazzolo, Chief Executive Officer of GS1 Australia and GS1 Board Member, at the GS1 Global Forum 2013

GS1 is a non-profit organization dedicated to the development and implementation of global specifications to manage the supply chain, including product identification codes, barcodes and business-to-business standards for the exchange of accurate data. After longstanding cooperation at the technical level, the WCO concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with GS1 in 2007 to formalize cooperative ties.

At the invitation of GS1, the Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya, spoke at the GS1 Global Forum 2013 in Brussels on 18 February 2013 where he highlighted the increasing cooperation between the two organizations. Recalling the evolution of Customs with a heightened focus on data management for assessing risks in the supply chain, the Secretary General underlined the importance for Customs to explore the possibility of making use of supply chain specifications that are available in the trade, such as codes and specifications developed by GS1.

He specifically referred to the new WCO Economic Competitiveness Package to explain how Customs contributes to enhancing national competitiveness by facilitating trade using a risk management approach. As this requires the application of information technology, data and message standards, and consignment identifiers, it is important to employ existing technologies and tools in the trade supply chain, through a partnership with business.

Sharing a common interest in supply chain management, including track and trace systems, both organizations have been cooperating in many areas in a complementary manner, as the WCO facilitates Customs-to-Customs and Customs-to- business data exchange while GS1 also facilitates business-to-business data exchange.

Areas of cooperation between the two organizations include the work at the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) and the International Standards Organization (ISO) on standardization and specifications for supply chain management, the work on the Unique Consignment Reference Number (UCR) and the use of GS1 data for Customs risk assessment purposes.

The most recent collaboration includes the addition of a barcode function to the Interface Public Members (IPM) – the WCO’s information tool to fight violations of intellectual property rights at borders. Secretary General Mikuriya urged GS1 members to leverage the collaboration with the WCO at the global level by getting in touch with their respective local Customs administrations. GS1 members appreciated his speech and pledged to explore and enhance cooperation with Customs administrations. Source: WCO

For more of the latest news and happenings at the WCO, please follow the news feed alongside (right).

$50M of diamonds stolen in minutes at Brussels airport

Diamond planeEight masked gunmen forced their way through the security fence at Brussels‘ international airport, drove onto the tarmac and snatched some $50 million worth of diamonds from the hold of a Swiss-bound plane without firing a shot. The gang responsible for one of the biggest diamond heists in recent years used two black vehicles with a flashing blue police lights in their daring raid late Monday.

They tried to pass themselves off as police officers. The robbers, who wore outfits resembling dark police clothing, got away with 120 parcels, mostly containing diamonds but some also holding precious metals. Police said they found a burnt-out minivan believed to be involved in the robbery near the airport later Monday night.

The heist was estimated at some $50 million in diamonds. The robbers forced their way through a perimeter fence, at a place where two work sites obstructed a clear view. There were no details about how the hole was opened but airport authorities said it must have taken more than simply blasting through it with a vehicle.

The robbers drove up to the Swiss passenger plane some 20 minutes before departure time, brandishing their machine guns. Then they methodically broke into the hold, which was accessed from outside, to choose their loot. Passengers were unable to see the drama beneath them. The robbers finished their clinical operation with a high-speed departure through the same hole in the fence, completing the spectacular theft within barely five minutes. Source: Yahoo.com

Visit http://news.yahoo.com/video/robbers-fake-uniforms-pull-off-190916134.html for a video report of the incident.

WCO News – October 2012 Edition

Treat yourself to news and views on Customs around the globe. As usual the WCO News does not disappoint. Content includes –

  • Highlights from the 2012 Council.
  • Latest developments in WCO areas of work: compliance, facilitation, capacity building and tariff and trade affairs.
  • Germany and the problem of “cheap whites”.
  • UK’s strategy to tackle tobacco smuggling.
  • The Chairperson of the Kimberley Process, Ambassador Gillian A. Milovanovic, sheds some light on the diamond trade and its “dark” side.
  • China’s Ambassador to the EU, H.E. Wu Hailong, provides his perspective on trade facilitation, as well as China’s initiatives in this domain.

Moreover, there are other interesting articles on informal fund transfer systems, dual-use goods, and transit control. For South African readers don’t miss the article penned by our Customs Counsellor in Brussels  Coffet Lebepe. His article provides an insight on South Africa’s preparations to combat illicit trade in tobacco products. Click here to download the WCO News! Source: The WCO

WCO 2012 Photo Competition winner

This year’s entries provide a wealth of historic and ‘yesteryear’ character in testimony to the traditional role of customs officers. I for one feel this portrayal is the more lasting impression that real customs officers will remember. While the modern border officer certainly has a lot more gizmo’s and sophisticated gadgetry at his/her disposal, it somehow offers little more than superficial value. Even the digital photographs of today require manipulation to introduce period artefacts or correction to create the desired result.

This years winning entry was submitted by Slovakia Customs. It depicts a fulltime customs officer of the Financial Guard on duty at the Klokočov road crossing point on the border between Slovakia and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, sitting with his young daughter on his lap.

The modern world’s seeming disdain of family values is in stark contrast to the natural warmth of a father and child in this picture. This would be unheard of in many jurisdictions of paranoia we call the customs and border control environment today. We grow evermore suspicious and untrusting of our fellow citizens to the danger that the essential purpose and physical portrayal of public service is an after-thought.

The WCO has put together a wonderful compendium of all this year’s entries. This is a competition not so much about a winner, but a celebration of the wealth and depth of customs tradition accross the globe. Click here to view all the entries!

WCO Annual Report

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the World Customs Organization (WCO), the Organization published a new Annual Report that takes stock of where the WCO has been, where it is now, and where it is going, in addition to serving as a window on the many successes of the WCO, its Members and Customs’ external partners.

The Annual Report contains two major sections: the first includes a summary of the WCO’s mission, history, strategies, current activities and organizational arrangements; and the second comprises profiles of current Members, such as information on the Customs administration, the Director General and contact details, as well as data related to the administration’s operations.

Of particular note is the fact that the WCO’s 177 Member Customs administrations collectively employ approximately 800,000 staff and contribute an average of 33% of their Governments’ total tax revenue, while processing over 98% of all international trade.

The WCO’s role as the steward of global Customs standards is reflected in the Annual Report, which also presents information on how the WCO continues to assist Customs authorities to achieve their objectives, especially the effective application of controls while efficiently facilitating legitimate trade. Source: wcoomd.org

New Issue of the World Customs Journal

The latest edition of the World Customs Journal (March 2012) comprises what appears to be a disparate array of topics. Professor David Widdowson invites your attention to the underlying theme of contrasting approaches to universal imperatives which permeates several of the contributions, which includes, for example,

  • a comparative analysis of excise taxation across the ASEAN region and identifies the need for standardisation in readiness for the impending introduction of the ASEAN Economic Community. It’s nice, for a change to have articles which deal with Excise.
  • a research paper concerning the diversity of de minimis arrangements in the APEC region, highlighting their impact on economic benefits and costs.
  • a review of a variety of regional approaches to coordinated border management, and
  • the introduction of the EU’s electronic customs environment as a means of achieving regional standardisation.

The underlying commonality of border management imperatives is also reflected in this edition’s Special Report. In his insightful article ‘Lines and Flows: the Beginning and End of Borders’ Alan Bersin (former Commissioner of the CBP) challenges the traditional concept of international borders, and introduces a paradigm that views global cooperation as a fundamental requirement for effective border management. The next edition of the Journal will focus on excise policy and practice, and will include papers presented at the World Customs Organization’s Global Excise Summit which will be held on 2-3 July at the WCO Headquarters in Brussels. Source: The World Customs Journal.