Highlights of the WCO Global Conference on the Comprehensive Review of the RKC

On 9 November 2018 the WCO hosted the Global Conference on the Comprehensive Review of the RKC which gathered close to 150 experts from Member Customs administrations, partner international organizations, regional organizations, industry associations, the private sector, development partners and academia.

The Conference was organized with the objective to raise awareness of the recently launched process of a comprehensive review of the International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures (as amended), widely known as the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC). The event also aimed at elucidating the partner entities’ ideas and inputs in that regard with a view to ensuring that the WCO flagship Convention would continue to play a prominent role in trade facilitation, in promoting the role of Customs in the security context and in harmonizing and simplifying Customs procedures.

In his opening remarks, the WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, highlighted the important role the RKC had played in the negotiations of the Agreement on Trade Facilitation of the World Trade Organization (WTO TFA) and pointed out that it was the right moment to assess whether a new revision of the Convention is necessary. Dr. Mikuriya expressed his satisfaction of the steady growth of the number of RKC Contracting Parties over the years and expected that it will continue during the review and update of the Convention. The importance of efficient implementation and monitoring was also highlighted.

A keynote speech was delivered by Mr. S. Ramesh, Chairman of the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs of India – the 40th Contracting Party to the original Kyoto Convention to accept the Protocol of Amendment of the Kyoto Convention and provoke the entry into force of the RKC in February 2006. Mr. Ramesh spoke of the importance of shaping the RKC in such a way that it would be relevant to the future developments. The Convention had to be aligned to the current needs, while ensuring it was future-proof and included provisions entailing periodic reviews and updates.

“There is no doubt about the impact of border management on business”, said the former Chairperson of the Private Sector Consultative Group, Ms. Carol West, in her keynote speech. Investment decisions were very often dependent on the assessment of the level of trade facilitation across borders. The PSCG had identified 4 priority areas to encourage both direct and indirect business investments: transparency, efficiency, predictability and engagement of the private sector. And these were all consistent with the RKC. Ms. West further stressed that the efforts and investment of RKC Contracting Parties needed to be protected and promoted and was confident that the private sector could bring valuable input to the process of the comprehensive review of the RKC.

In break-out dialogue sessions, external stakeholders and Members deliberated on a “Customs of the future” model and the avenues to maintain the RKC as the WCO flagship convention, as well as discussed the growing use of technologies and the resulting evolution of the trade and logistics environment.

Blockchain, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and 3D printing were consistently mentioned as the technologies impacting cross-border trade, but it was largely believed that it was a fusion of all emerging technologies that was shaping the new Customs operational environment. The conference participants discussed the factors affecting the use of technology, such as legislative framework, human resource skills and costs. When effectively utilised, technology could enhance business self-assessment and compliance. Special focus was also put on Customs to Customs interconnectivity and interoperability.

The benefits of effective RKC implementation and monitoring were subject to discussion in a plenary session. Representatives of some of the WCO regions and the World Bank shared their thoughts on the factors having major impact on the effective implementation of the Convention and the benefits of a robust monitoring mechanism for Members, for the WCO and for the private sector. Political will was highlighted as an underlying factor for accession to and implementation of the RKC in the least developing countries. The importance of capacity building for efficient implementation of the Convention was also outlined as being of particular relevance for the developing and least developed countries. The role of Customs and Economic Unions was emphasised, as well as the necessity to involve the private sector in the process of the comprehensive review of the RKC in general and the establishment of a monitoring mechanism in particular.

The discussions brought the Conference participants to an atmosphere of paradigm shift, said WCO Deputy Secretary General, Mr. Ricardo Treviño Chapa in his closing remarks. The Conference had outlined the linkages between the WTO TFA and the RKC and had reconfirmed the coherence between the two. Mr. Treviño further outlined the take-away from the discussions that would be part of the evolving discussion on the RKC review – use of technology, the role of security, the importance of monitoring and implementation, to name a few. A key point to be remembered was the sentiment of partnership, of really sharing the RKC review challenge with the external stakeholders.