Customs advised on advancing electronic data to tackle effects of illicit trades on citizens’ health

To counter the various security risks exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, namely counterfeiting and smuggling, customs officers have to base their risk analysis on accurate and advanced electronic data on each cargo shipment as well as on information provided by businesses. Accordingly, Customs and the private sector should work hand in hand to adapt to the new business environment.

The World Customs Organisation (WCO) Secretary-General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, emphasised this in a speech he delivered virtually at the 7th Edition of “MASCRADE 2021” – Movement against Smuggled & Counterfeit Trade organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) last week.

The aim of the meeting was to foster a healthy discussion on the latest practical strategies to mitigate the challenges posed by counterfeiting and smuggling, especially in the post-COVID-19 era.

Mikuriya informed the audience about WCO Operation STOP to combat illegal trafficking linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that some 99 WCO members had taken part in the Operation, which had resulted in substantial seizures of medicines and medical supplies.

He stressed the importance of Customs-Business Partnership in the fight against smuggling and counterfeiting, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Secretary-General Mikuriya described the role of Customs during the pandemic, under the WCO’s leadership, in ensuring the smooth cross-border movement of essential goods, including medicines and medical supplies. He explained that the Organization’s robust partnership with its stakeholders had resulted in the issuance of guidance documents and in proactive joint actions with partner international organizations in trade and transport, aimed at addressing bottlenecks and also at assisting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) at the peak of the crisis.

Dr. Mikuriya noted that according to data obtained from seizures, small packages linked to E-Commerce were one of the main ways of transporting illicit goods. He, therefore, recommended the implementation of the WCO Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce for enhanced partnership and use of advanced information to tackle this risk. He added that data also revealed that free trade zones were being exploited for illicit activities, taking advantage of a lack of appropriate oversight. In this regard, he referred to the new WCO Guidelines on Free Zones to address this issue.

Mikuriya concluded by stating that given the challenges ahead, the WCO would dedicate 2021 to Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain, with the support of the Customs community.

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