WCO and SECO begin collaborating to further boost trade facilitation
The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the WCO have launched their first joint comprehensive capacity building programme to deliver capacity building and trade facilitation assistance in Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Uzbekistan over the next four years. Through this initiative, both organizations hope to reduce overlap and duplication, while strengthening the harmonization of working methods.
Funded by SECO and managed by the WCO, the initiative is called the “Global Trade Facilitation Programme” (GTFP), the term “Global” referring to the growing demand from countries across the globe for the provision of holistic support that is required to achieve sustainable change.
The beneficiary countries are more advanced developing economies and economies in transition, with seven out of 10 of their citizens still affected by poverty. The programme aims to bolster the role of trade in their economic development and increase their competitiveness by fostering strengthened compliance with international practices and standards, thereby ensuring efficiency along the full length of the supply chain.
Assistance aimed at the simplification and harmonization of procedures will be provided through the WCO Mercator Programme, which was launched in 2014 and designed to assist governments in implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) specifically and Customs trade facilitation measures generally, using core WCO instruments and tools.
Diagnostic missions by accredited Mercator Programme Advisors (MPAs) and thematic experts will be carried out in each country to analyse the current state of play and establish priorities. Tailor-made work plans will then be developed by the experts and approved by a National Programme Steering Committee (NPSC) to be established in each country, composed of representatives from Customs, WCO experts and other interested parties. Once the plans are approved, activities will be rolled out over the course of three years, followed by a monitoring and evaluation phase.
The GTFP will also focus on organizational development, the objective being to ensure that officers in the beneficiary Customs administrations do not only have the necessary technical expertise, but also demonstrate the right leadership and management skills to implement and take ownership of reforms. Among other activities, Customs senior managers will have to participate in WCO Leadership and Management Development (LMD) workshops.
Institutional strengthening will be another priority, with the WCO and SECO working with beneficiary Customs administrations on strategic planning, the adoption of competency based human resource management, and the development of stakeholder relations, especially with the private sector.
Last but not least, a part of SECO’s contribution will be used to support the WCO’s ongoing work in developing a holistic benchmarking tool to measure Customs performance. The programme provides an ideal opportunity to further identify such indicators. As the measurement of performance is a topic of interest to all WCO Members, experience gained in this area will be widely shared.
The programme management team, composed of three people, has already reached out to the four beneficiary countries to start discussions on the way forward. As part of the inception phase of the programme, diagnostic missions will now be delivered by MPAs in each country using WCO diagnostic tools to identify national priorities and design national work plans.