Digital Technology and Customs discussed at the Global Trade 2018 Conference in London

At the invitation of the Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs), WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya spoke at the Global Trade 2018 Conference, held at the Chatham House in London, United Kingdom on 1 November 2018, with the theme “Protectionism, power dynamics and changing priorities”.

As a speaker at the session three on “Technology, Services and Data Trade”, Secretary General Mikuriya talked about how Customs encounter with digital connectivity and smartphones has brought transformational changes in the international supply chain, and altered the narrative on how consumers, business and governments interact with one another.

Dr. Mikuriya explained the WCO Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce and how it ensures speedy clearances of the rapidly increasing number of parcels crossing borders as well as addresses the potential risks this poses to the safety and security of the supply chain.  He also asserted that leveraging the power of big data through data analytics was the way forward for Customs, and that already several Customs administrations were exploring the usefulness of Blockchain technology to potentially improve transparency throughout the supply chain, streamline Customs risk management, and regulatory compliance, and reduce transaction costs.

WCO Secretary General further averred that there were many possible benefits to Blockchain technology, such as to assemble the required pieces of information for Customs declarations, inter-agency exchange of information, implementation of free trade agreements, implementation of Authorized Economic Operators – Mutual Recognition Agreements (AEO-MRA), revenue collection and compliance management.

Based on the ongoing pilot projects involving Customs administrations, Secretary General Mikuriya mentioned several challenges in the use of Blockchain.  These included the integration of technology into Customs business model, the standardization of data, the interface of Customs system and the interoperability of Blockchain, the harmonization of Blockchains as well as the quality of data.  He concluded by expressing his wish for “smart” borders.