WCO and AfCFTA Secretariats join forces for the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area

On 15 February 2022, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), and H.E. Mr. Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, met at WCO Headquarters to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). This MoU aims at strengthening the organizational capacity, transparency and effectiveness of African Customs administrations in a sustainable manner through cooperation between both Organizations. 

In his remarks on this occasion, Secretary General Mene explained that it had been a long road since the establishment of the AfCFTA Secretariat. Today, 41 of its 54 Member States had duly ratified Rules of Origin for 87.7% of tariff headings agreed upon, to name but one milestone. He recalled the mandate of his Secretariat and stated that Customs’ involvement is essential in order to realise the ambitions laid out in the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA. He also noted that expectations were high and that communities were eager to start trading under the Agreement. The AfCFTA Secretary General then acknowledged the WCO’s expertise and role in delivering capacity building in highly-technical areas which were key for implementing the Agreement.

After congratulating his counterpart for the work done by the AfCFTA Secretariat, Dr. Mikuriya highlighted the areas where the WCO could contribute, including customs technical matters such as the Harmonized System, Valuation and Origin, as well as automation, risk management and trade facilitation which will yield economic benefits to the African continent.

He went on to outline the WCO’s long experience in developing capacity-building materials for Customs administrations and in donor coordination to ensure the efficient delivery of training. He reaffirmed WCO’s commitment to contribute to the regional integration efforts in Africa through customs modernisation.

Source: WCOOMD, 16 February 2022

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.

Africa and the adoption of HS2022

Picture: Samendra Singh on Unsplash

The new edition of the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System 2022 (HS2022) entered into force on the 1st of January 2022. This development means that Customs tariffs, associated Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) management systems as well as accompanying Harmonised System (HS) tools and instruments must have been successfully migrated from the previous edition (HS2017) to the new version (HS2022).

A few weeks prior to entry into force of HS2022, African countries’ experiences in this regard still indicated widely ranging inconsistencies and discrepancies in the application of the HS in general. Whilst all the Contracting Parties were expected to have fully migrated to the HS2017 by then, apparently some had not yet done so. The majority of those were still either using HS2012 or even HS2007, whilst some had huge delays in rolling out HS2017. Only 30 African countries had successfully migrated to HS2017 and were already applying it. At the launch of the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) during the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union on the AfCFTA in Niamey, Niger held on the 7th of July 2019, HS2017 was already in its third year. At that time, half of the African Union Member States were still to ratify the AfCFTA.

Source: TRALAC, Rwatida Mafurutu, 1 February 2022

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 launches Trade Tools, a new online database for the Harmonized System, Origin and Valuation

The World Customs Organization (WCO) is proud to announce the release of its new online tool, www.wcotradetools.org, which compiles information to support international trade actors in the classification of goods and the determination of the corresponding Customs tariffs and taxes. This new database offers a single point of access to the Harmonized System, preferential Rules of Origin and Valuation, through a completely new, user-centric and ergonomic interface.

In addition to a new interface design and new search engines, this new platform offers the following key features: 

  • Ability to cross-reference information by using a comparison tool in the Harmonized System (HS) and Rules of Origin
  • A direct overview of the most recent HS updates, highlighting the changes introduced
  • A system for tracking the evolution of the HS codes across editions, using a “History” tool
  • A facility for searching through the Product Specific Rules in more than 200 Free Trade Agreements, and access to the corresponding HS entry.

The new platform will also promote cooperation among the different teams within Customs administrations, as well as with Customs brokers and companies, through various features such as the possibility to tag information, write comments and share folders. It offers the possibility of further enhancing use of the platform; users can search through the extensive databases, as well as organizing and storing the content according to their personal preferences.

This new tool includes the 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017 editions of the HS, around 200 Free Trade Agreements with their preferential Rules of Origin/product specific recommendations, and the set list of Valuation texts, including those of the Technical Committee on Customs Valuation.

In addition to this new professional database, the WCO is also proud to announce the release of its new online bookshop, www.wcoomdpublications.org, where users can navigate through the range of WCO publications, purchase them, and subscribe to the Organization’s online services, including WCO Trade Tools. The website has benefited from a complete revamp, to facilitate users’ access to the publications and enhance their navigation experience.

For more information, please contact the Publications & Data Solutions Service: publications@wcoomd.org.

Revision of Correlation Tables between HS2012 and HS2017

HS_HandbookFollowing the accepted complementary amendments to the Harmonized System Nomenclature listed in the Council Recommendation of 11 June 2015, the Correlation Tables between the 2012 and 2017 versions of the HS have been revised. The revised Correlation Tables show the correlation resulting from both the amendments to the Nomenclature which have been accepted as a result of the Council Recommendation of 27 June 2014 and the complementary amendments to the Nomenclature which have been accepted as a result of the Council Recommendation of 11 June 2015.

For more details visit the WCO website.

WCO issues New Guide for the Technical Update of Preferential Rules of Origin

SARS R78 million Airport Cash BustIn order to assist Members with the updating of their existing Rules of Origin in relation to changes in the Harmonized System, the WCO has issued the “Guide for the technical update of Preferential Rules of Origin“. The Guide is available for WCO Members only.

Classification and origin determination of goods are closely interlinked. It is therefore critically important to update Rules of Origin (i.e. Product Specific Rules) to ensure consistency between HS classification and origin determination. This would help to prevent misapplication of Rules of Origin, ensure efficient and effective revenue collection and facilitate trade. Source: WCO

WCO News – February 2015 Edition

WCO News - Coordinated Border Management Feb 2015Check out the latest WCO News – per usual a wealth of interesting customs and supply chain information:

  • WCO launches IRIS, an application exploiting open source information
  • Harmonized System amendments effective from 1 January 2017
  • Beginning the CBM process: the Botswana experience
  • Inter-institutionality – a distinctive feature of the Colombian AEO model
  • WCO Data Model: the bridgehead to connectivity in international trade
  • Implementing New Zealand’s Joint Border Management System

and a whole lot more…

Source: WCO

New WCO HS standards coming into force on 1 January 2017

OMD_7760The WCO Council, at its 123rd/124th Sessions in June 2014, adopted a Recommendation that lists recommended amendments to the Harmonized System (HS) nomenclature which will enter into force on 1 January 2017 (HS 2017).

This Recommendation is being promulgated under the provisions of Article 16 of the HS Convention, which implies that HS Contracting Parties now have six months to notify the WCO Secretariat of an objection to a recommended amendment.

Since the entry into force of the current version of the HS (HS 2012), the HS Committee has been revising this version of the HS nomenclature for almost five years. HS 2017 will be the sixth version of the HS since the Convention entered into force in 1983. HS 2017 will enter into force for all HS Contracting Parties, but will exclude any amendments objected to during the six month timeframe.

The new version of the HS includes 234 sets of amendments. Environmental and social issues are a major feature of these amendments, due to the importance of the HS as a global tool for collecting trade statistics and monitoring trade. This is borne out by the fact that the HS Convention currently has 150 Contracting Parties, making it the WCO’s most successful international instrument to date.

The majority of the recommended amendments were broached by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO):

  • Amendments relating to fish and fishery products are aimed at further enhancing the coverage of species and product forms which need to be monitored for food security purposes, and the better management of resources.
  • Amendments relating to crustaceans, molluscs and other invertebrates are motivated by the importance of the trade in and consumption of these species in their various product forms.
  • Amendments relating to cuttlefish and squid enlarge the coverage of the present HS codes for these species, in order to have all these species grouped together.

The classification of forestry products has also been modified, in order to enhance the coverage of wood species and get a better picture of trade patterns. The modification will enable trade data on tropical wood to be identified, resulting in better statistics on the trade in tropical wood and better data on the use of non-tropical hardwoods. In addition, the amendments include new subheadings for the monitoring and control of certain bamboo and rattan products.

Furthermore, HS 2017 amendments aim to provide detailed information on several categories of products that are used as antimalarial commodities. This will facilitate classification work, and the trade in these life-saving products.

The amendments also introduce specific subheadings to facilitate the collection and comparison of data on the international movement of certain substances controlled under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

New subheadings have also been created for a number of hazardous chemicals controlled under the Rotterdam Convention and for certain persistent organic pollutants (POPs) controlled under the Stockholm Convention. In some cases, there is a confluence of control regimes for chemicals by both the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

In addition, new subheadings have been created for the monitoring and control of pharmaceutical preparations containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or norephedrine, and for alpha-phenylacetoacetonitrile (APAAN), a pre-precursor for drugs.

Other amendments resulted from changes in international trade patterns. Headings 69.07 (unglazed ceramic products) and 69.08 (glazed ceramic products) were merged to take account of the fact that the main subheadings within these headings concern products which are essentially no longer manufactured, and the industry and trade no longer make a distinction between unglazed and glazed ceramic products, whilst new products with a very high trade volume are classified under subheadings 6907.90 and 6908.90 (“Other”).

Furthermore, for purposes of adapting the HS to current trade practices, certain important products will be separately identified in either existing or new subheadings.

Advances in technology are also reflected in the amendments, inter alia, the size criteria for newsprint, light-emitting diode (LED) lamps, multi-component integrated circuits (MCOs), and hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles.

Finally, the HS 2017 Recommendation includes amendments to clarify texts to ensure uniform application of the nomenclature. For example, the regrouping of monopods, bipods, tripods and similar articles in a new heading, namely 96.20. Source: The WCO

WCO receives gift of historical significance to Customs from Egypt

An Egyptian delegation to the WCO Harmonized System Committee, on behalf of the Director General of Egyptian Customs, Mohamed Elalhawy, presented the Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya, with a colour papyrus copy of the Customs tariff applied in Egypt during the time of the Pharaohs some 2000 years B.C. The original tablet is to be found in a museum in Egypt. You can view a photograph of the Egyptian tablet by clicking here!

The Secretary General thanked Egyptian Customs for this impressive gift full of significance which clearly illustrated the historic nature of Customs tariffs dating back more than 4000 years. He expressed the hope that one day he would be able to see the original stone tablet in Egypt. The papyrus will be displayed at WCO Headquarters. Source: http://www.wcoomd.org