Customs group considers cargo standards

World Customs Organization

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America’s top customs official is urging members of an international body to adopt a framework this week that will provide common standards and practices for governments and industry to secure global trade.

“The framework represents a worldwide strategy that all nations can implement in order to combat global terrorism and to protect trade and our economies,” said Robert Bonner, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner, in a prepared statement. “And, it has the potential to revolutionize the security and efficient movement of global trade. But its potential counts for little unless it is adopted and implemented.”

The World Customs Organization (WCO), an independent intergovernmental body with 166 member governments, which represent 99 percent of global trade, has drafted a minimum set of standards that would help customs officials worldwide seamlessly and securely transport cargo from port to port.

For example, the draft “Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade” calls on customs administrations to use interoperable electronic systems to share advance information that identifies high-risk containers or cargo. The document also calls for the use of non-intrusive inspection equipment, an automated risk assessment system and development of performance measures, among other principles.

“Customs’ administrations should not burden the international trade community with different sets of requirements to secure and facilitate commerce, and there should be recognition of other international standards,” the document states. “There should be one set of international customs standards developed by the WCO that do not duplicate or contradict other intergovernmental requirements.”

According to CBP, the document reflects standards contained in the agency’s Container Security Initiative, including pre-screening high-risk outbound containerized cargo based upon a risk management system, and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program that awards reduced inspections for commercial companies that meet certain security criteria.

The WCO Council is expected to adopt the 49-page document during its June 23-25 meeting at the organization’s headquarters in Brussels, according to information on the group’s Web site. The framework was released late last year and finalized in May.

WCO officials have said that the framework will be adopted in phases by customs administrations based on their financial resources, capacity and legislative authority. The organization will also help build a strategy to help customs administration around the world implement such standards. CBP has also indicated it would help countries obtain detection equipment, train security and provide risk management.

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