WCO Secretary General addresses data, e-commerce and illicit trade at the Munich Security Conference

From 18 to 20 February, Dr Kunio Mikuriya, the Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), attended in person the Munich Security Conference (MSC). Founded in 1963, the MSC has become a major security forum organized on an annual basis. This year, more than 100 ministers and over 30 heads of state and government, as well as heads of international organizations attended the MSC in person.

During the session on fighting kleptocracy and corruption, several topics were discussed, including illicit trade. In his intervention, Secretary General Mikuriya highlighted the potential danger for Customs administrations to have to rely on low quality data while controlling high volume of shipments from e-commerce that have further grown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The WCO-coordinated enforcement operations demonstrated that e-commerce has become one of the major conduits for illicit trade. Therefore, it has become essential to obtain access to good quality data for risk management purposes, using digital technology in a paperless trade environment. Like in the case of traditional containerized trade, where there is an established data flow from the trade community to Customs, there is also a need for Customs to enhance cooperation with the e-commerce operators, including e-commerce platforms. The development of Public-Private Partnerships with e-commerce actors for the purpose of data sharing, in addition to the ongoing cooperation with other law enforcement agencies to identify high-risk packages, is considered a matter of urgency.

Within the margins of the Conference, Dr. Mikuriya had a number of discussions with ministers and political leaders as well as heads of international organizations. He had a bilateral meeting with Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), to discuss the progress in the area of multilateral trade negotiations as well as possible cooperation on e-commerce and trade transparency. During a meeting with Ms. Majlinda Bregu, the Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Secretary General Mikuriya explored the ways that the WCO could contribute to regional integration in South-East Europe and particularly in Western Balkans. During a bilateral meeting with Mr. Jurgen Stock, his counterpart from INTERPOL, Dr. Mikuriya raised the topics of leadership, management and enhanced cooperation as the globe is slowly recovering from the pandemic.

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