Time is now for customs to take ownership of FZ – World Customs

Hameed Ali, Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service

The World Customs Organisation (WCO) says time is now when customs needs to take ownership Free Zones (FZ) to prevent illegal trade.

The WCO Deputy Director of Procedures and Facilitation, Mr. Brendan O’Hearn, stated this in his remark at an online regional workshop on Free Zones organized by the WCO for the Asia Pacific region recently.  

“Now is the time when Customs needs to take ownership for Customs involvement in free zones”, said Brendan O’Hearn, expressing the desire that the workshop would trigger further discussions within all customs administrations on what customs can do to obtain a safe, secure and competitive business environment in free zones.

The workshop, in close cooperation with the WCO Asia Pacific Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB/AP), was aimed at discussing the harmonized and efficient implementation of the WCO Practical Guidance on Free Zones (FZ Guidance) that was endorsed by the 2020 December Council.

“Preventing illegal trade in free zones contributes to improving the business environment and competitiveness of free zones in meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals”, said the WCO Director of Compliance and Facilitation, Mr. Pranab Kumar Das.

Speaking, the Head of the ROCB/AP, Mr. Norikazu Kuramoto, highlighted the importance of capacity building for effective implementation of WCO FZ Guidance in the AP region.

Experts from Customs administrations, free zone authorities, the private sector and international organization delivered insightful presentations during the three-day workshop. A representative from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) highlighted the strong complementarities between the OECD Free Zone Recommendations and the WCO FZ Guidance. He stressed that the OECD and the WCO could jointly leverage them to provide Members and the private sector with efficient guidance to counter illicit trade.

This workshop covered the key elements identified by the WCO Free Zone Guidance for adequate Customs procedures in FZs. These include Customs involvement in FZs, effective Customs control including onsite check and Customs audit, IPR protection, origin determination of goods produced in FZs, use of data and technologies, multidisciplinary and international cooperation and expanding the concept of Authorized Economic Operator in FZs.

Through in-depth discussions on these topics, participants recognized the impact of the extraterritoriality of FZs and the significance of Customs involvement in the development and operation of free zones for the competitiveness and sustainability of free zones. They also recognized that the sharing and use of data and advanced technologies, as well as enhanced cooperation, are a prerequisite for improving the safety and security of FZs.

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