Procedures and Facilitation
Capacity building delivery
More than 100 national or regional events have been organized to support WCO Members in implementing the Organization’s existing instruments and tools covering various important Customs-related areas, such as risk management, authorized economic operator (AEO) programmes, transit and the Single Window (SW), as well as the use of the Time Release Study (TRS) and accession to the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC).
WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement
Since the adoption in November 2014 of the Protocol of Amendment to insert the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) into the main World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement, 94 WTO Members have ratified the TFA to date. The TFA will take effect once the Protocol has been accepted by two-thirds of the Members of the WTO, i.e. 110 Members in total, as per the WTO’s current membership figures.
The latest measures carried out by the WCO in the area of trade facilitation and TFA implementation under the WCO Mercator Programme include:
- Adding new tools and best practices, which have emerged from consultations with WCO Members, relating to the implementation of the relevant trade facilitation measures and the TFA Implementation Guidance developed by the WCO. This guidance aims to support an understanding of the linkages between the TFA and WCO instruments and tools, such as the RKC;
- Delivering national and regional missions for technical assistance and capacity building to facilitate preparations for the implementation of the TFA. In this regard, the WCO is continuing to develop its pool of experts with specific expertise in TFA topics (Mercator Programme Advisors, and Technical Operational Advisors on transit, the SW, the TRS, the RKC and others);
- Providing guidance and assistance in the setting up of National Committees on Trade Facilitation (NCTF);
- Holding meetings of the WCO Working Group on the TFA (TFAWG);
- Completing the first round of regional awareness-raising workshops on the TFA, and launching the second round which will focus on the technical aspects of TFA implementation;
- Participating in high-level meetings with key parties and individuals to emphasize the key role of Customs and the WCO in the implementation of the TFA;
- Developing e-learning courses on the WTO TFA, and on transit systems.
The WCO continues to provide support relating to accessions to the RKC, which is an excellent implementation instrument for WCO Members to comply with the TFA requirements.
Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR)
The WCO continues to develop, maintain and promote API-PNR standards together with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), as well as to facilitate the sharing of experience between WCO Members on the establishment of API-PNR systems. In this regard, WCO experts participated in two national workshops (Azerbaijan and Georgia) with the aim of providing these countries with technical assistance and know-how, and to initiate discussions between Customs officials, officials from other government agencies as well as representatives of airline industries.
In order to keep passenger information message standards up to date with the latest requirements, the WCO, in the framework of the API-PNR Contact Committee, maintains the API PAXLST and PNRGOV standards. The latest version of the PNRGOV Message Implementation Guide (MIG), namely version 15.1, as well as PAXLST 5.0 (2015) were produced and thereafter endorsed by the WCO Council in July 2016. In addition, the WCO also developed a Guidance for Customs administrations to use PNR/API which aims to provide insight on how WCO Members can effectively utilize passenger information for passenger profiling and risk assessment.
Customs information management
WCO Data Model (DM)
Seventy-two countries have reported that their information systems conform to the WCO DM, and around 49 countries have active projects underway involving the implementation of the DM. A WCO Member-wide tabulation status report of adoption, and indicating the increasing use of the DM, is available on the WCO website.
The level of adoption of the WCO DM appears to be increasing now that the European Union’s (EU’s) Directorate General of Taxation and Customs Union (TAXUD) has developed the EU Customs Data Model (EU CDM) based on the DM. The EU CDM’s high level of conformance with the DM has been achieved through the derivation of the DM information packages. The CDM is a binding instrument within the EU, as it is included as a technical annex to the Union Customs Code (UCC). This demonstrates how the harmonized implementation of the WCO DM can support integration and interoperability at the regional level. The EU’s decision to base its EU CDM on the WCO DM can, therefore, act as a reference model for implementation of the DM by WCO Members in other regions.
In line with its strategy to engage executive-level decision makers on the “bigger picture” aspects of information and communications technology (ICT), which led to the publication last year of the “IT Guide for Executives”, efforts have been made to develop guidance to demystify the technical aspects of the DM with a view to making it more comprehensible to a broader audience.
Efforts are also ongoing to work together with different international organizations in order to leverage the capability of the WCO DM to support seamless collaboration between and among cross-border management agencies. The WCO Data Model Project Team (DMPT) worked with the Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), the Universal Postal Union (UPU) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), in order to further facilitate trade and transport border crossing through the convergence of regulatory information requirements, which will enable traders and transporters to comply with the requirements in a cost effective manner. This effort also aims to clarify the technical relationship between the DM and other international data requirements through “Information Packages,” enabling users to appreciate how these requirements can be expressed and implemented in a harmonized way using the DM.
The question to be considered is whether the WCO and the Customs community should allow other users of the DM, such as other government agencies and international organizations, to raise Data Maintenance Requests (DMRs). This should be seen against the fact that as interest by other international organizations in using the DM is increasing, the ability to have their data requirements accommodated in the Model can be seen as an additional benefit. An example of this is the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), which is using the DM as the basis for building the e-TIR system, and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which is aligning the data requirements for its ASYCUDA system to conform with the requirements of the DM.
Moreover, work remains to be done to develop more promotion material, especially concerning practical guidance on how to adopt the WCO DM, how to migrate from previous versions of the DM to the newer version, and the linkage between data requirements and business requirements, so that the benefits of implementing the Model can be seen from a business perspective too. The WCO will, therefore, have to look into these linkages and provide more detailed information on how the DM should be used and understood, as it moves towards Version 4 of the Model.
Single Window (SW)
The WCO “Compendium on How to Build a Single Window Environment” is made up of two volumes whose sheer length has been deemed problematic for capacity building activities. A shorter, simplified version called a “supplement” has been developed to serve training workshops of a three to five-day duration.
The supplement addresses the key stages of SW development, including its essential concepts and applications, agenda setting and policy planning, establishing formal structures, business process analysis and modelling, data harmonization, and the dematerialization of supporting documents.
WCO experts also supported activities relating to the implementation of SW solutions, and promoted the use of WCO standards and tools in doing so. Evidence of this support is demonstrated by the variety of work undertaken by these experts in which they:
- held a regional workshop on coordinated border management (CBM), the SW and the DM for the WCO Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, which gathered Customs officials as well as officials of Customs’ partner agencies, and representatives from the private sector;
- conducted two workshops in Zambia to assist the country in building a national SW and, more specifically, in finalizing the data harmonization for the country’s ASYCUDA Single Administrative Document;
- organized two field missions to support the establishment of a SW in Mauritius;
- conducted a five-day national workshop on CBM, the SW and the DM in Sudan, to provide an holistic understanding to the administration on both information technology (IT) and non-IT issues that are critical to the successful implementation of a SW;
- attended a national SW conference and a back-to-back workshop, to support Ghana Customs in the implementation of its national SW;
- conducted a workshop in Bhutan to enhance the collective understanding and technical capability of all government agencies as the country moves towards a more coordinated electronic environment;
- participated in the Workshop of the Trade Promotion Organs of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Single Window Modality and E- Trade, and their role in promoting intra-OIC trade;
- attended the 4th International Single Window Conference & Exhibition of the African Alliance for E-Commerce (AAEC).
The WCO developed position papers as well as a brochure presenting several tools and instruments which support the concept of “Digital Customs,” and is collecting best practices in this area. It also organized the National Workshop on Digital Customs and Interactive Services in Uzbekistan.
Considering the transversal nature of Digital Customs, the WCO has adopted a ‘Digital Customs Work Plan’ to carry out future work in a comprehensive and cohesive manner. Additionally, the WCO has developed a ‘Digital Maturity Model’ to support Members in their ICT implementation journey.
Technical Experts Group on Non-Intrusive Inspection Equipment (TEG-NII)
The TEG-NII was set up to develop standards for the following objectives:
- to allow interoperability of different NII equipment supplied by different manufacturers;
- to allow the exchange of images within and between Customs administrations;
- to allow the development of a database or library of images – a more long-term goal;
- to assist in the training of image analysts.
It held its first meeting from 21 to 22 September 2016, and is currently open to Customs administrations and main NII manufacturers at this time.
The WCO is closely working with the UPU on a number of issues of mutual concern, which, in particular, include advance electronic exchange of data, postal supply chain security, and e-commerce.
To promote electronic pre-advice on postal items, based on WCO-UPU Customs/Post EDI messages, experts of the WCO:
- participated in the “SAFEPOST Project – Postal Security & Customs Forum” which brought together over 60 postal operators and Customs administrations/border forces from the WCO Europe region to discuss the project, whose aim is to enhance the integrity and security of the postal supply chain;
- organized, in conjunction with the UPU, joint workshops for countries in the Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Caucasus sub-regions as well as Latin America, to strengthen existing cooperative relationships between Customs and postal operators at the national level, in particular by improving the exchange of advance electronic information.
Forms CN 22 – (packages under 2 kg in weight or valued at less than 300 special drawing rights (SDR)), CN 23 (packages valued in excess of 300 SDR), CP 71 (dispatch note) and CP 72 (manifold set) have been amended. The changes include additional columns on the CN 22 for the Harmonized System (HS) code and country of origin, “sale of goods” and “returned goods” as reasons for export, the telephone number of the sender and addressee, and an optional S10 barcode, in addition to substantially harmonizing and aligning these documents. The amendments are expected to assist Customs in carrying out better risk profiling and more efficient collection of duties and taxes where applicable, as well as supporting postal administrations in enhancing service delivery.
The WCO participated in the Global Conference on Trade Facilitation organized by the UPU. It also participated in a Workshop on Customs Control over Cross-border E-Commerce, which was jointly organized by the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) bloc and China Customs, to promote the tools and the work done by the WCO thus far.
The WCO also organized the first ever regional workshop on e-commerce for the North of Africa, Near and Middle East (MENA) region from 16 to 19 November 2015 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to enhance understanding on current and emerging challenges posed by e-commerce, together with possible solutions best suited to their respective economic environments, as well as related WCO tools and instruments, and ongoing work with other stakeholders in this domain.
The WCO supported the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in terms of developing alternative models of revenue, which was published last year as part of the OECD report titled “Addressing the Tax Challenges of the Digital Economy.” It is also working with the Technical Expert Group on Measuring E-Commerce, in which the WTO, UNCTAD, the UPU, the OECD and representatives of the private sector are exploring potential avenues for measuring cross-border business-to-consumer (B2C) and consumer-to-consumer (C2C) e-commerce.
A working group comprising WCO Members, representatives from the WCO Private Sector Consultative Group (PSCG), observers and e-commerce operators/intermediaries has been set up to deliberate on the opportunities and challenges stemming from growing e-commerce, in particular, cross-border low-value business-to-consumer (B2C) and consumer-to-consumer (C2C) shipments, and to carry out related future work in a more cohesive and sustainable manner in line with the WCO Strategic Plan for 2016/2017-2018/2019. It held its first meeting in September 2016.
The future of Customs
The Virtual Working Group on the Future of Customs (VWG FC), consisting of representatives from Customs, international organizations, the private sector and academia, initiated a discussion on the implications of enhanced use of 3D printing on Customs and other government agencies, and on origin, valuation and intellectual property (IP). Developments relating to drones, particularly the use of drones for surveillance and monitoring purposes and for legal or illegal cross-border delivery of goods, were also presented.
This year, the WCO published a “Study Report on Customs Brokers,” based on the results of a survey to which WCO Members had responded in large numbers. Among other things, the publication provides policy considerations as a reference point for WCO Members who were considering the establishment or adjustment of a licensing/regulatory regime for brokers, in line with the provisions of the RKC and the WTO TFA [The Focus section of the WCO News magazine offers some insights into this topic].
Guidelines for Transparency and Predictability
The Guidelines are based on existing international agreements, such as the TFA, the RKC, and other WCO instruments and tools. It reviews terms and concepts, such as promptness, accessibility, enquiry points, data protection and confidentiality, freedom of information, information on appeals, and publication management. Examples of best practices complement the text.
Role of Customs in natural disaster relief
At the invitation of the UN Secretary-General, the WCO Secretary General participated in the first World Humanitarian Summit. The role of Customs in facilitating the clearance of disaster relief consignments was highlighted, as well as the contribution of the WCO in providing training to raise its Members’ awareness of WCO standards on relief consignments and to enhance their preparedness.
The WCO and representatives of Customs administrations participated, for the first time, in the “Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week Programme” which was organized by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA). The event brought together 825 experts representing the national institutions of 67 affected countries and donor governments, as well as 22 UN agencies, international organizations, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), 10 regional organizations, 53 national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), alliances and partnerships, 35 private sector companies, and 25 research and academic institutions.
The WCO, in cooperation with UN-OCHA and the IFRC, held a seminar on the role of Customs in natural disaster relief for countries of the West, Central, East, and Southern African regions. This was the fourth in a series of regional seminars planned by the three organizations to give effect to the June 2011 WCO Resolution on the Role of Customs in Natural Disaster Relief. Aimed at promoting the use of existing tools and instruments to help Customs administrations together with other relevant agencies respond efficiently to emergency situations, these seminars also provide an ideal platform for Customs authorities and their key humanitarian aid partners to share experiences and perspectives, in order to obtain feedback on Customs’ future needs and constraints.