Directors General of the 183 WCO Member Customs administrations met as the WCO Council, the Organization’s supreme decision-making body, in Brussels, Belgium from 27 to 29 June 2019 to take stock of what had been done since it last met and to map the road ahead for the next financial year, driven by the will to build a stable, predictable, safe and transparent trade environment.
The Council discussed issues relating to the WCO’s different areas of work: the Harmonized System, rules of origin, Customs valuation, enforcement, facilitation and capacity building.
Among the important tools discussed and adopted by the Council was the 2022 version of the Harmonized System. Some notable amendments are new headings or defining Notes for new or major technologies (3D printers, smartphones, drones and novel tobacco products), electronic waste (e-waste), various gases with high global warming potential, rapid diagnostic kits for Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases, new fentanyl opioid derivatives, cultural objects, edible oils produced by microbes, edible insect products and minimally processed quinoa.
The Council endorsed an E-Commerce package and agreed to continue developing additional technical specifications. To further enhance Customs-Post cooperation, the Council adopted the “Joint WCO UPU Guidelines on exchange of electronic advance data between Posts and Customs.” An implementation strategy, an action plan and a capacity building mechanism aimed at ensuring the widespread adoption and implementation of the Framework of Standards were also adopted.
In addition, the Council adopted the new WCO Strategic Plan for 2019/2022 with its nine priority areas, namely coordinated border management, security and safety, the Revised Kyoto Convention, e-commerce, the Harmonized System, the Capacity Building Strategy, performance measurement, integrity, and digital Customs and data analysis.
“The annual Council Sessions were characterized by meaningful debate, aimed at bringing Members together to address common challenges,” said WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya. “Indeed, the decisions taken by the Council will enhance the leadership role of Customs in border management and contribute to building future-proof Customs administrations around the globe,” he added.
Several elections took place during the meeting. Mr. Pranab Kumar Das of India was elected Director of the Compliance and Facilitation Directorate and Mr. Taeil Kang of Korea was elected Director of the Capacity Building Directorate, and both will join the Secretariat in January 2020. Additionally, Mr. Dicksons Collins Kateshumbwa, Commissioner of Uganda Customs, was elected as the next Chairperson of the Council.
Regarding accessions to WCO instruments, Council delegates witnessed Ghana deposit its instrument of accession to the Revised Kyoto Convention, and Gambia deposit its instrument of accession to the Harmonized System Convention, both Conventions being recognized globally as key trade facilitation and Customs modernization tools.
On a lighter note, the annual WCO Photo Competition was won by the Customs Administration of Finland the winning photo shows two reindeers crossing a road with a Customs mobile vehicle scanner in the background.