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Customs recognition

Fiji Revenue And Customs Service
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

ANNUALLY held on January 26, International Customs Day (ICD) recognises the role of Custom officials and agencies in maintaining border security and at the same time facilitating trade and travel for their country. The day also focuses on the working conditions and challenges that Customs officers face in their jobs.

Instituted by the World Customs Organization (WCO), International Customs Day is held on this date as it commemorates the day in 1953 when the inaugural session of the Customs Cooperation Council (CCC) was held in Brussels, Belgium.

Seventeen European countries attended this session. In 1994 the CCC was renamed World Customs Organization (WCO) and today Customs organisations from 182 countries are WCO members including Fiji whose chief executive officer also currently holds the role of vice chair of the World Customs Organisation Asia Pacific region.

2018 theme

The theme for this year's International Customs Day is "A Secure Business Environment for Economic Development". The theme focuses on ways for Customs to support and enhance the security of the business environment.

The development of international trade is not an end in itself, but rather a vehicle through which economic development can be achieved. We should, therefore, strive to create an environment for businesses that will foster their participation in trade, for the benefit of all.

Businesses require a secure supply chain to prosper legitimately, but some threats come from within the trade itself, such as the shipment of illicit goods that could endanger people's health, safety and security. In addition, the importation of illegal goods, such as goods that infringe intellectual property rights (IPR), can do immense harm to an economy of both the exporting and receiving countries.

Challenges faced by Customs administrations

Today, we all will appreciate that Customs administrations are facing broadened challenges in that they must ensure the smooth flow of trade while applying necessary controls to protect the health and safety of the community as well as the trading reputation of the country.

Customs are in the front line in the fight against fraud, terrorism and organised crime. To achieve the correct balance between these demands, control methods must be modernised and co-operation between stakeholders and government agencies, domestically and internationally must be reinforced.

The need for Customs to reform and modernise is continuous. As Customs administers, we are continuously faced with new challenges and complexities that impact on functions, determine policy changes and impact operational environments. Some of the challenges that Customs administrators face today are:

* globalisation and the continued growth and changing profile of international trade;

* the need to secure international trade supply chains;

* pressures to expedite goods across borders; and

* finally, the increasing demands posed by e-commerce and the opportunities presented by information and communication technology for streamlining and improving processes and procedures.

Recent years have also witnessed the proliferation of new multilateral and regional trading rules that Customs are expected to administer. On the enforcement side, we are also faced with a new set of complexities associated with sophisticated techniques employed by international smuggling and money laundering syndicates.

Cross- border crime

Customs can contribute to the increased security of the business environment by focusing on activities that promote an enabling, safe, and fair and sustainable environment including by streamlining procedures, tackling corruption, enhancing integrity, and facilitating the movement of people, goods and craft.

This year's WCO theme also calls for increased focus on combating cross-border crime, including the illicit funding of international terrorism through trade activities. All these different aspects of securing the business environment are invariably connected to the current Customs focus on trade facilitation, in particular the implementation of the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention and the World Trade Organization's Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Drug trafficking

Drug trafficking remains an integral issue for all law enforcement agencies.

Historically LEA's dealt with producer countries on one-hand and consumer countries on the other but today, along with legitimate business we are also faced with globalisation of the drug trade, including producer countries, transit countries, decoy countries, delivery countries and destination countries with some meeting several of these criteria.

Drug traffickers are known to have adopted common marketing strategies through using supply surpluses for enhanced market penetration by utilising introductory pricing for people in the expectation that this will lead to a broader long term customer base to get addicted. However other traditional concepts of demand and supply do not necessarily apply in the illicit drug trade where profit margins are so large that these are readily manipulated to maintain cash flow. The term consumer countries no longer apply, as most countries have become drug consumers as well as producers — with scale of production generally being the differing factor.

Therefore, Customs administrations must remain vigilant, prioritise resources and efforts, enhance cooperation and make the best possible use of all tools and instruments available as well as demonstrating and demanding a high level of integrity along the entire length of supply chain to ensure legitimate trade and travel flows freely while disrupting illicit flows.

WCO SAFE framework

Many WCO tools, instruments, and initiatives that have been developed can readily assist customs administrations in building a secure business environment, such as the WCO SAFE framework of standards to secure and facilitate global trade or the WCO security program.

They not only enhance customs' overall trade-related processes, they also contribute to an increase in both security and trade facilitation.

By taking advantage of the WCO's tools, instruments and expertise, Customs has the means to actively secure the global trade landscape.

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