European Union proposes reform to modernise the World Customs Organisation

The European Union has presented for the first time its initiative for broad reform of the World Customs Organisation (WCO), the global forum that shapes international standards and common action in the field of customs. As the only global organisation dealing with customs matters, the WCO deals with a significant number of topics in the field, as well as those related to international trade, security and transport. However, since its establishment almost 65 years ago, in 1952, the WCO has never undergone a comprehensive reform despite the deep shifts in international trade and new challenges faced by national customs administrations the world over. 

The EU sees the need for clearer prioritisation of the WCO’s work in line with the challenges for the next decades, improvements in its governance and decision-making process, and in its efficiency. In its proposal, the EU recommends that the WCO focuses more on strategic priorities reflecting the most important challenges of the 21st century, such as the digitalisation of customs and the use of data, including in dealing with the rise in e-commerce and exchange of information, the contribution of customs to the protection of the environment and the green agenda, the development of single window approaches and coordinated border management to simplify customs clearance for businesses, and the strengthening of risk management by customs authorities.

For the EU, the governance methods at the WCO should be further addressed so that the organisation can play its full role in a dynamic international environment. Transparency, institutional and decision-making processes must be improved. The EU also proposes that the means by which the WCO is funded should be examined to ensure long-term sustainability of the Organization to improve its standing in the global multilateral architecture, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and as part of the economic recovery.  

The modernisation initiative aims to help strengthen the WCO’s position as a key multilateral institution and help it address developments in today’s ever-changing international trade environment more effectively, while supporting the green and digital transitions. 


About the World Customs Organisation 

The WCO has more than 180 members, including the EU and its Member States. One of its big achievements is the harmonised coding system for trade in goods (HS nomenclature). The WCO would have limited means to enforce strategic reforms and many countries that during the first phase of the pandemic temporarily accepted digital forms are currently digitalising their customs procedures again. CLEPA supports harmonisation and digitalisation of customs procedures. Different application of customs procedures remains a significant hurdle to trade both globally and among the 27 different customs authorities of EU Member states. 


Source: European Commission 


    In: CLEPA News, Growth & Competitiveness
    • Topics