At the invitation of the Vice-Chair of the East and Southern Africa (ESA) Region, Mrs. Agnes Katsonga Phiri, Commissioner of Customs and Excise, Malawi, the Secretary General, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya attended the 19th Meeting of the Heads of Customs Governing Council ESA Region, on 15 and 16 May 2014. The meeting was hosted by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) in Johannesburg.
The Commissioner of SARS, Mr. Ivan Pillay welcomed delegates from the Members of the Region on the 20th Anniversary of democracy in South Africa, a period during which much had been achieved. He highlighted the importance of the WTO Agreement and its impact on Customs and the growth in African trade.
Addressing the Governing Council, the Minister of Finance, Mr. Pravin Gordhan emphasized the evolving role of Customs in a changing and challenging environment. The continued growth of economic activity in Africa required innovative Customs procedures to secure and facilitate trade, particularly in the context of regional integration. The WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (ATF) offered a golden opportunity as Customs would have a central role in its implementation. Customs must continue to enhance its operational capacity by increased automation, embracing other agencies and harmonization and simplification of procedures. The importance of Capacity Building was emphasized.
Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya gave a comprehensive report on recent WCO activities. He referred to the many developments on the WTO ATF agenda. The WCO had established a web tool dedicated to this topic, including an analysis of the ATF Articles and relevant WCO instruments with a self assessment aspect. Mr. Mikuriya recalled that the WCO theme for this year is “Communication” and asked all Members and agencies present to ensure that all were aware of each other’s activities.
Secretary General Mikuriya also met with the Minister of Finance, Mr Pravin Gordhan, to discuss a number of issues of mutual interest including implementation of the ATF, information exchange and the evolving role of Customs. The Governing Council discussed the way forward as regards ATF implementation, and expectations of trade input to WCO activities. Source: WCO