The COVID-19 outbreak has had far-reaching effects on transport and on the cross-border flow of goods. The pandemic reveals the importance of global cooperation between governments and private bodies, as well as international organizations, to address the widespread effects of the crisis. The rapid and coordinated action undertaken by the World Customs Organization (WCO) Private Sector Consultative Group (PSCG) has been exemplary in demonstrating the power of such efforts.
Since 2008, the Customs Affairs Institute (CAI) has supported FIATA’s membership of the PSCG, a high-level advisory group that provides vital industry input to the WCO on customs and international trade matters. It is made up of 27 international and regional non-governmental associations and corporate entities. Notably, FIATA is the only organization within the PSCG with observer status at the WCO. Participation at the PSCG, as well as more broadly within the WCO working bodies, has enabled FIATA to actively participate in the facilitation of international trade.
COVID-19 related action
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the PSCG rapidly stepped up its efforts to assist the WCO to alleviate the impact of the pandemic and address crucial trade facilitation challenges. Importantly, the PSCG and the WCO Secretariat intensified their dialogue and consultations on relevant developments, challenges and experiences from a business perspective. FIATA applauds the WCO multilateral efforts to help its members during the pandemic, as well as to take along the views of the private sector.
Notably, the PSCG prepared a special contribution to the WCO Secretary General, outlining some priorities and principles to be considered by the WCO and its Member Customs Administrations during the crisis. The PSCG stressed the role of the private sector as governments consider and analyze solutions to the current emergency and strategies for economic recovery. The contribution further outlined specific observations and recommendations concerning, inter alia, expediting the clearance of essential goods; increasing efficiency and simplification in border procedures; and supporting business resumption and recovery.
The WCO appreciated the input from the PSCG, while also giving it the necessary publicity and visibility. The WCO further encouraged its members to consider the PSCG recommendations. ‘I greatly appreciate the useful contribution from the PSCG that merits serious consideration by customs and other border agencies. In these challenging times, it is critical that we work even harder together in the spirit of a customs-business partnership,’ said Dr Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General.
The way forward
Looking into the future, the PSCG is also undertaking important work to identify best practices and lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, that would assist governments and businesses alike to be better prepared to respond timely and adequately to any future emergencies in a globally coordinated manner.
Alongside, PSCG is working on further relevant workstreams, such as developing a common vision on the future of customs, aiming to inform WCO strategic policies, and exploring opportunities to strengthen and enhance the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) programme as part of the implementation of the SAFE Framework of Standards.
As the COVID-19 outbreak highlights even further the utmost importance of customs-to-business partnerships, the influence of the PSCG within the WCO echoes in international trade more broadly. Hence, the CAI will continue to support FIATA’s membership within the PSCG for the benefit of its members, conveying the global voice of freight logistics.