WCO Advancing Customs in the digital era

Advancing Customs in the digital era: Insight from the 241st/242nd Permanent Technical Committee Meeting

The 241st/242nd Sessions of the Permanent Technical Committee (PTC) took place in Brussels from 24 to 26 October 2023. The event gathered more than 300 participants attending in person and online, comprising a wide range of professionals from Member administrations, international organizations, academia, and the private sector. The blend of perspectives and experiences added depth and richness to the discussions. Over the years, this committee has played a pivotal role in promoting trade facilitation instruments and tools, and addressing contemporary challenges that Customs are facing.

In his opening remarks the World Customs Organization (WCO) Deputy Secretary General, Mr. Ricardo Treviño Chapa, expressed his gratitude for the substantial turnout at the meeting and at the same time, conveyed his confidence that the participants would actively contribute to the exchange of experience and information during the meeting. The Deputy Secretary General emphasized the significance of several important topics to be discussed during the sessions of the Committee, including technology and digital Customs, cooperation with International Organizations, e-commerce, and Green Customs.

The three days of discussions during the 241st/242nd PTC Sessions led to interactions and a number of key outcomes. The PTC was presented with an oral report from the 2023 WCO Technology Conference held from 10 to 12 October in Vietnam under the theme “Embracing the Digital Age: Leveraging Technology, Fostering Innovation, and Nurturing the Next Generation of Customs Professionals”. The conference dealt with a wide range of technological innovations and their implications for Customs administration. Big data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, innovative detection technologies were among the topics discussed. In addition, participants were briefed on the joint WCO-UPU Global Conference held from 6 to 8 June this year and on the Joint Declaration between the WCO and the Universal Postal Union (UPU).

The PTC endorsed the report from the 5th Meeting of the Passenger Facilitation and Control Working Group (PFCWG), including the PFCWG Work Program 2022 – 2025; and the report from the 66th Data Model Projects Team Meeting (DMPT), including the updated DMPT Work Program 2023-2025 and the updated WCO Data Model Maintenance Procedure. PTC delegates agreed that the work of the PFCWG continue in a mini group reporting to the PTC as a stop gap measure until a more suitable, permanent home is found for traveler facilitation and control matters. The PTC discussed the topic of cross-border regulatory interconnectivity framework and agreed to the review of the Globally Networked Customs (GNC) instruments and tools. Another significant topic included on the agenda was e-commerce, where several Members presented challenges and experiences in implementing the WCO Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce. Under this agenda item, the draft outline for a new WCO tool on the implications for Customs of the e-commerce fulfilment process was discussed. This tool will be further developed through discussions in intersessional meetings and aligned with the annexes in the E-Commerce Package.

The PTC was briefed on the implementation of the Green Customs Action Plan and discussed the draft outline for WCO guidelines on the Customs treatment of return-refill containers and packings. The PTC endorsed the Secretariat’s proposed work in this area and provided guidance on the way forward. Furthermore, the meeting emphasized the importance of creating a safe and efficient trade network with the implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and other tools, as well as the promotion of partnerships and capacity building. The inclusiveness of women in trade was also a topic on the agenda and presentations were made on the efforts taken to promote inclusiveness and women in trade and in Customs.

The session culminated with a noteworthy address by Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, marking a significant moment as this represented his final appearance in the capacity of Secretary General at a PTC meeting. His speech, articulating both a retrospective appreciation and a strategic outlook for the future, underscored the relentless progression and adaptive strategies of the organization. Dr. Mikuriya lauded the delegates for their commendable work and the overall success of the meetingThe Director of Compliance and Facilitation, Pranab Kumar Das, also expressed gratitude to participants for their active contribution during these PTC sessions and appreciated Members and private sector stakeholders who had shared their knowledge and experiences.

The next PTC meeting is scheduled during the fourth week of April 2024.

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