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WCO 2018 Theme

On 9 November 2017, the Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), Kunio Mikuriya, announced today that 2018 will be dedicated to strengthening the security of the business environment, with the slogan “A secure business environment for economic development.”

The development of international trade is not an end in itself, but rather a vehicle through which economic development can be achieved. We should, therefore, strive to create an environment for businesses that will foster their participation in trade, for the benefit of all.

With the above in mind, it is imperative that we ask ourselves, how we can, as Customs, contribute to better secure the business environment and, in doing so, boost economic prosperity. Three key elements come to the forefront:

Enabling environment

It is globally recognised that Customs can contribute to making the business environment more stable and predictable by, for example, streamlining procedures, tackling corruption, enhancing integrity, and facilitating the movement of goods, conveyances and people in general.

Safe environment

Legitimate businesses require a secure supply chain to prosper, but some threats come from within the trade itself, such as the shipment of illicit goods that could endanger peoples’ health, safety and security. Combating cross-border crime, including the illicit funding of international terrorism through trade activities, is our responsibility. By taking advantage of the WCO’s tools, instruments and expertise, Customs has the means to actively secure the global trade landscape.

Fair and sustainable environment

The importation of illegal goods, such as goods that infringe intellectual property rights (IPR), or legal goods which, for example, are smuggled into a country to avoid the payment of duty or whose value has been misreported, can do immense harm to a country’s economy. It is not only a question of financial losses for both legitimate traders and governments, such activities can also affect governance, the economy, development and human security across the globe.

“All these different aspects of securing the business environment are invariably connected to the current Customs focus on trade facilitation, in particular the implementation of the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention and the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement that support the goals contained in the United Nations’ Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said Secretary General Mikuriya.

The WCO’s annual theme will be launched on International Customs Day, which is celebrated annually by the global Customs community on 26 January in honour of the inaugural session of the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC) which took place on 26 January 1953. The WCO invites the Customs community to mark 26 January 2018 in their diary.

Source: wcoomd.org

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wco-icd2017As national Customs administrations and border agencies celebrate International Customs Day, no doubt showcasing their recent ICT endeavours, it is good to reflect not only on the available standards and tools which are becoming more available to Customs and Border Management Agencies.

The WCO spearheads and supports several initiatives aimed at fostering increased coperation and collaboration between member states under the banner of ‘Digital Customs’. In the post security era, throught is capacity building arm, the WCO champions global development of its Digital Customs concept and strategy. The WCO’s work programme in this regard covers a broad area of focus, for example:

  • to support the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement,
  • the updating of related WCO instruments and tools,
  • ongoing promotion and maintainance of the WCO Data Model,
  • monitoring of new and emerging technological developments (3D printing, Big Data, Predictive Analytics, Drones and Blockchain),
  • promotion of e-services and apps,
  • exchange of information between stakeholders nationally and accross borders, and
  • promotion of the Single Window concept.

For most customs and border administrators, they have somewhere heard of, or to some extent are aware of the ‘buzz words’. The various chapters of the WCO through the working groups provide up-to-date developments in all facets on developments in the modern Customs operating and global trade environment. These are ably supported by several internal business organisations and umbrella associations adding credence to the developmental work and ultimately the standards, policies and guidelines published by the WCO.

In this modern era of uncertainty – global political and socio-economic risks – International Customs Day should be a combined celebration not only for Customs, but moreover, the associated supply chain industries and business intermediaries. If there was no trade in goods there would be no Customs or WCO. Without the providers of ‘big data’ there would be no need for data analysis. Without illicit activities there would be no need for expensive enforcement technology and equipment and the application of risk management.

Thanks to an imperfect and unequal world the WCO, through its association with the world’s customs authorities, big business and ICT service providers is able to develop a Digital Customs Maturity Model, which provides a road map for administrations from the least to most developed (mature rather). The pace and extent of maturity is undoubtedly determined by a country’s discipline and agility based on a clear strategy with the support and commitment of government and allied industries.Happy Customs Day!

Borders Divide, Customs Connects” is the theme for this years international Customs Day celebrations, highlighting the central and integral role of Customs administration in the global trade supply chain. As the World Customs Organization prepares to celebrate its 60th anniversary this year, it is only fitting that  this opportunity is used to acknowledge the heritage that the founders of the Customs Co-operation Council bestowed on us, namely the importance of cooperation, particularly the value of inter-connectedness among Customs and its partners. For the official WCO International Customs Day 2012 poster click here!

For the international Customs community, connectivity connotes a vision of arrangements worldwide that support the smooth and lawful flow of goods, services, people, technologies, capital, culture, and ideas. It galvanizes the establishment of partnerships, the preparation of research, the sharing of knowledge, and the delivery of capacity building. Connectivity thus paves the way for community protection, modernization, and economic development. Connectivity encapsulates strengthened coordination, cooperation, and communication between Customs administrations, with other government agencies and institutions, and with the private sector, at national, regional and international levels.

Because borders are synonymous with division, the main challenge for Customs administrations is to identify and pursue the best methods to increase connectivity, which refers to people-to-people, institutional, and information linkages, that underpin and facilitate the achievement of objectives.

In fact, Connectivity is a natural progression from previous International Customs Day themes: Knowledge in 2011, particularly the sharing of knowledge to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of Customs authorities; Customs-Business Partnerships in 2010, with a focus on supporting and improving the connective, working relationships between Customs and the private sector; and Environment Protection in 2009, underscoring the need for coordinated border management to save our natural heritage.

It is, of course, important to emphasize that connectivity encompasses three main pillars:

  • people connectivity, which includes a partnership with the business sector, and knowledge and professionalism;
  • institutional connectivity, which includes Customs-to-Customs connectivity and Customs-to-other government agency connectivity; and
  • information connectivity, which acts as an enabler and includes Globally Networked Customs, the electronic Single Window, and technology and knowledge solutions.

Here at home in South Africa, SARS Commissioner Oupa Magashula confirmed SARS’ proud history as a “connected” organisation fulfilling its Customs mandate –

  • We connect with our partners in business, those who drive the international supply chain, to provide them with a world-class service offering that will enhance their competitiveness in the global marketplace.
  • We connect across Government administrations and agencies that collectively form the regulatory and physical frontline of this country, working towards enhanced facilitation and security for the country, its economy and society.
  • We connect with our counterparts in Customs administration around the world on matters ranging from the sharing of best practice to active cooperation on improved Customs administration to the combating of Customs fraud and illicit trade.
  • We connect within our region, on the continent and beyond to work towards greater integration and cooperation, ensuring that the benefits of global trade enhance the economic and social well-being not only of South Africa, but of our neighbours and the continent as well.

Sources: WCO and SARS.