Procedures and Facilitation

14 October 2017

WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA)

The World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTO TFA) entered into force on 22 February 2017. 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 to the TFA Implementation Guidance such as the updated Single Window Compendium (Article 10.4), the Handbook on Inward and Outward Processing (Article 10.9) and the Transit Guidelines (Article 11);
  • continuing with the development of the Guidelines on Customs Brokers (Article 10.6);
  • delivering national and regional missions for technical assistance and capacity building 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);
  • holding meetings of the WCO Working Group on the TFA (TFAWG), including joint sessions with the WCO’s Permanent Technical Committee and Capacity Building Committee;
  • completing a second round of workshops in all six WCO regions, which focused on the technical aspects of TFA implementation;
  • further developing the network of Mercator Programme Advisors (MPAs) who oversee TFA implementation in the countries they are responsible for, including the holding of the first workshop for MPAs in Brussels in June 2017;
  • endorsing new operating modalities for the tailor-made track of the Mercator Programme to further optimize the technical assistance to Members;
  • developing detailed analysis of the use of information and communication technology (ICT) that will enable efficient implementation of the TFA.

Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR)

In collaboration with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the WCO continues to develop, maintain and promote the API/PNR Guidelines, including its technical annex that contains, among other things, the API PAXLST and PNRGOV related standards. The latest work in this area includes:

  • the update of the Management Summary on Passenger-related Information, which is an umbrella document;
  • the update of the API CUSRES Message Implementation Guide relating to the revision identifier;
  • the update of the PNRGOV XML Implementation Guide 16.1 and associated XML schema;
  • the update of the PNRGOV EDIFACT Implementation Guide 16.1;
  • significantly enhancing the PNRGOV Principles document;
  • the elaboration of a document containing lessons learned and a high-level checklist, in order to assist airlines and governments in planning their PNRGOV implementation projects;
  • the conducting of a survey to determine which versions of the PNRGOV message were in use, and what versions users planned to deploy in the future.

Regarding API, in addition to the existing EDIFACT standard for API, namely the API PAXLST standard, which is the preferred method to transmit API data to governments, an XML format of the API message is being developed to avoid the development of non-standard formats by countries wishing to have the capability to receive API data in different formats.

The WCO is also promoting the 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, as well as its recently published new Guidance on How to Build an API/PNR System.

Concerning assistance to WCO Members on the establishment of API/PNR systems, WCO experts participated in two national workshops in Azerbaijan and Paraguay, with the aim of providing these countries with technical assistance and know-how for planning the implementation of API/PNR Systems and to initiate discussions between Customs officials, officials from other government agencies and representatives of the airline industry.

The WCO also organized a regional workshop for Eastern European countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan and Ukraine – to sensitize them on the passenger control issue, and discuss the use of passenger data, capacity building and foreseeable challenges related to the implementation of an API/PNR programme.

Authorized Economic Operators (AEO)

The AEO Compendium has been updated and a new publication, the “AEO Validator Guide,” has been published. The guide provides practical guidance to assist countries in carrying out AEO validation in a standardized manner, sets out the essential elements required, and promotes a common minimum set of competencies that Customs officers tasked with conducting validations should possess.

The CREATe project, funded by Sweden and aimed at assisting the East African Community (EAC) with the development and roll-out of a regional AEO programme, is almost complete. Under this scheme, regional AEOs are mutually recognized in all Partner States and receive common benefits. Forty-six companies already have this status, and between them they manage about 5.6% of the transactions being made in the EAC in terms of value – about 1 billion US dollars per month. Inspections on their shipments or controls on their transactions have led to no contentious procedure so far.

Customs information management

WCO Data Model (DM)

Seventy-one countries have reported that their information systems conform to the WCO DM, and around 50 countries have active DM implementation projects underway. A WCO Member-wide tabulation status report of adoptions, which also indicates the increasing use of the DM, is available on the WCO website.

There has been good progress on Version 3.7.0 of the WCO DM, which will be ready for publication in December 2017. The new version will include, among other things, an enhancement of the “My Information Package (MIP)” and updated as well as new data elements. A spreadsheet will be used to publish the new Information Packages in place of the previous Word document, making it more convenient for users in mapping their data requirement to the WCO DM.

Regarding technical assistance, WCO experts:

  • assisted the European Commission in adopting the WCO DM for the development of EDIFACT and XML messages that will be implemented in the European Maritime Single Window prototype;
  • provided help to experts from Mercosur in their efforts to develop a common dataset for the Customs declarations of the regional bloc’s State Parties, i.e. Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, in order to facilitate the harmonized exchange of information between and among these countries;
  • organized a workshop for information technology (IT) experts from Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Senegal, in order to train them to develop message specifications based on the WCO DM. The objective is, among other things, to enable these administrations to develop harmonized and standardized electronic messages, and to enable them to achieve their goals when it comes to the interconnection of computer systems, particularly in managing transit operations;
  • held a national workshop in Pakistan to assist the Customs administration in aligning its data requirements to the WCO DM.

Single Window (SW)

The WCO Compendium “How to Build a Single Window Environment” has been updated and renamed “Building a Single Window Environment.” The updated Compendium describes multifaceted aspects of a SW, with emphasis on the roles of cross-border regulatory agencies and of the private sector from an early stage.

Structural and editorial improvements were made to the Compendium, with some parts reviewed and new parts developed The Compendium covers new aspects such as data quality, integrated risk assessment, public-private partnership, and performance management and sustainability in the SW environment.

WCO experts contributed to the development of tools and guidance related to the SW environment, such as the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) Technical Note on Terminology for Single Window and Other Electronic Platforms.

They also participated in different international forums, supported activities relating to the implementation of SW solutions, and promoted the use of WCO standards and tools, such as Version 3.6 of the WCO DM and the RKC ICT Guidelines, at national workshops in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Ukraine, setting the ground for the establishment or enhancement of national SW environments in these countries.

Non-intrusive inspection (NII)

Members of the Technical Experts Group on Non-Intrusive Inspection Equipment (TEG-NII) continue to work on the development of an international standard for scanned images and associated metadata, called the Unified file format (UFF). The project is currently in Phase 2 with NII suppliers developing the architecture of the UFF and the associated testing platform.

The WCO Guidelines for the Procurement and Deployment of Scanning/NII Equipment have been updated as several new technologies had come onto the market since the guidelines were first published in 2011. They now cover the four types of emerging technologies: neutron scanning; cosmic ray tomography; vapour analysis; and CT scanning.

eATA Carnet Project

The eATA Carnet Working Group, which comprises WCO Member administrations and International Chamber of Commerce/World Chambers Federation representatives, developed a Globally Networked Customs Utility Block for the eATA, which is based on a decentralized system. The Working Group will now conduct a comprehensive comparison of the decentralized and centralized systems, in addition to undertaking a detailed study on the impact of both systems.

Digital Customs

The WCO has progressed well with its “Digital Customs” work programme in terms of developing/enhancing standards and tools. It has updated its Digital Customs Maturity Model, which provides a road map for administrations from the least to most mature in terms of ICT implementation. New activities/processes have been added under each of the “maturity segments” described in the Model. In addition, a detailed analysis of the use of ICT in the efficient implementation of the WTO TFA has been developed.

In terms of technical assistance, the WCO, under its Mercator Programme, is organizing regional workshops on Digital Customs and e-commerce for each of the WCO regions. These Workshops are aimed at improving knowledge and strengthening the capabilities of Customs administrations on issues concerning the use of modern technologies. Four workshops have already been held in the Europe, Asia/Pacific (AP), North of Africa, Near and Middle East (MENA), and West and Central Africa (WCA) regions.

Postal traffic

The WCO is closely working with the Universal Postal Union (UPU) on a number of issues of mutual concern, which, in particular, include advance electronic exchange of data, postal supply chain security, e-commerce, and the quality of data in CN 22 and CN 23 declarations. The Guidelines on Postal Traffic (Specific Annex J.2 of the RKC) have been updated and endorsed by the RKC Management Committee.

In July 2016, the WCO and the UPU sent out a joint letter to all Customs administrations and designated postal operators, urging them to prioritize the implementation of electronic data exchange between Post and Customs at the national level, using joint messaging standards.

Following that, the WCO and the UPU launched a joint WCO-UPU survey in May 2017 to ascertain the preparedness level of postal operators and Customs administrations for capturing, sending, receiving and using data in electronic format. Survey responses are being analysed, which will, among others, form the basis for developing guidance on establishing an electronic interface between Post and Customs at the national level, as well as for planning capacity building activities.

The two organizations also organized a Customs-Post Workshop for Latin American countries in Uruguay in August 2016, which was attended by Post and Customs representatives from 17 countries. The representatives agreed to explore the possibility of the entities signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the national level, as well as the establishment of national contact committees to formalize cooperation, where such committees do not already exist.

A few countries that attended the Customs-Post Workshop mentioned that they were already testing data exchange between postal operators and Customs administrations, or are considering initiating pilots. The others agreed to examine the possibility of exchanging advance electronic information.

Another joint workshop was held in Australia, in May 2017, for Customs administrations and postal operators in the Asia/Pacific region, with the aim of assisting both Customs and Post in developing or refining plans relating to the exchange of advance electronic data, and in stimulating concrete implementation actions.


The WCO Working Group on E-Commerce (WGEC), together with its four Sub-Groups, is steadily progressing within the four identified work packages: Trade Facilitation and Simplification of Procedures; Safety and Security; Revenue Collection; and Measurement and Analysis. The objective is to develop recommendations, guidelines and/or a framework on cross-border e-commerce, to collect and disseminate best practices and initiatives, and to enhance or update related WCO instruments and tools.

For example, the WGEC Sub-Group I (Trade Facilitation and Simplification of Procedures) is carrying out exploratory work on developing global standards/guidelines related to the exchange of information between e-platforms/marketplaces and Customs for efficient risk assessment and improved service delivery.

Based on a survey among its Members, the WCO recently published a Study Report on Cross-Border E-Commerce, which analyses how Customs administrations process cross-border e-commerce transactions, and addresses the challenges stemming from growing low-value and small shipments. As a follow-up to the Study Report, country-specific best practices and case studies have been developed and published on the WCO e-commerce web page together with all other e-commerce related information.

To promote the tools and the work done by the WCO thus far, WCO experts participated in several events, organized by various international organizations and stakeholders, including the UNCTAD E-Commerce Week that was held in Geneva, Switzerland, in April 2017.

Role of Customs in natural disaster relief

The WCO and representatives of Customs administrations participated in the 2017 Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week (HNPW), which was organized by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA). Several Customs related sessions were held during the HNPW, and the WCO was offered the opportunity to present its tools and initiatives in the area of natural disaster relief management. The event enabled participating Customs administrations, humanitarian actors and private sector representatives to discuss the challenges faced in relief operations and how they could be addressed.

Activities under the Customs for Relief of Epidemic Diseases (C-RED) Project, which is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have begun. Under the Project, support is provided to Customs administrations in West Africa that were affected by the Ebola epidemic, namely Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone, to better prepare them in handling future epidemic disease outbreaks and natural disasters.

A workshop was organized to enable these countries to discuss regional and national challenges, as well as solutions to facilitate the import and transit of humanitarian relief goods in times of crisis, based on national, regional and international best practices. In addition, WCO experts have begun providing support on a national basis, which focuses on the analysis and review of the legal framework, and the development of standard operating procedures (SOPs) related to the clearance of relief goods.


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