The global centre of Customs expertise
Customs is recognized as a critical institution to good governance, prosperity and the protection of society.
The World Customs Organization (WCO) aids the national economic wealth and social protection of its Members by promoting an honest, transparent and predictable Customs environment. This permits legitimate international trade to flourish and effective action to be taken against illegal activity.
Established in 1952 as the Customs Co-operation Council, the WCO
is an independent intergovernmental body whose mission is to enhance
the effectiveness and efficiency of Customs administrations. With
159 Member Governments, it is the only intergovernmental worldwide
organization competent in Customs matters.
In order to fulfil this mission, the World Customs Organization :
- Establishes, maintains, supports and promotes international instruments for the harmonization and uniform application of simplified and effective Customs systems and procedures governing the movement of commodities, people and conveyances across Customs frontiers ;
- Reinforces Members' efforts to secure compliance with their legislation, by endeavouring to maximize the level of effectiveness of Members' co-operation with each other and with international organizations in order to combat Customs and other transnational offences ;
- Assists Members in their efforts to meet the challenges of the modern business environment and adapt to changing circumstances, by promoting communication and co-operation among Members and with other international organizations, and by fostering integrity, human resource development, transparency, improvements in the management and working methods of Customs administrations and the sharing of best practices.
The history of the WCO began in 1947 when the thirteen European Governments represented in the Committee for European Economic Co-operation agreed to set up a Study Group. This Group examined the possibility of establishing one or more inter-European Customs Unions based on the principles of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
In 1948, the Study Group set up two committees €" an Economic Committee and a Customs Committee. The Economic Committee was the predecessor of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Customs Committee became the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC).
In 1952, the Convention formally establishing the CCC came into force. The Council is the governing body of the CCC and the inaugural Session of the Council was held in Brussels on 26 January 1953. Representatives of seventeen European countries attended the first
Council Session of the CCC.
After years of membership growth, in 1994 the Council adopted the working name World Customs Organization, to more clearly reflect its transition to a truly global intergovernmental institution. It is now the voice of 159 Customs administrations which operate on all continents and represent all stages of economic development. Today, WCO Members are responsible for processing more than 95 % of all international trade.
How are we organized ?
The WCO is a forum where delegates representing a wide variety of Members can tackle Customs issues on an equal footing. Each Member has one representative and one vote. It offers its
Members a wide range of Conventions and other international instruments. WCO Members can also take advantage of the technical assistance and training services delivered either directly by the
Secretariat or provided with its involvement.
The WCO is directed by the full Council and the Policy Commission (24 Members), with financial advice from the Finance Committee (17 Members). The WCO works through its Committees and its Secretariat to complete the work set forth in the key activities of the WCO Strategic Plan, which is approved annually by the Council. The principal Committees of the WCO are the :
- PERMANENT TECHNICAL COMMITTEE, including the Information Management Sub-Committee
- ENFORCEMENT COMMITTEE
- HARMONIZED SYSTEM COMMITTEE, including the Harmonized System Review Sub-Committee and the Scientific Sub-Committee
- TECHNICAL COMMITTEE ON CUSTOMS VALUATION
- TECHNICAL COMMITTEE ON RULES OF ORIGIN.
Structure of the Secretariat
The current Secretary General is Mr. Michel Danet (France) and he is assisted by three other elected officials. They are the Deputy Secretary General, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya (Japan), the Director of Compliance and Facilitation, Mr. Jouko Lempi;¤inen (Finland) and the The World Customs Organization Director of Tariff and Trade Affairs, Mr. Holm Kappler (United States). Approximately 60 expert technical staff, who are either appointed to the WCO or who are technical attach;©s on secondment from Member administrations, provide a high level of technical expertise to the various programmes and projects of the WCO. Locally recruited staff provide secretarial, translation, interpretation and general support services.
The two official languages of the WCO are English and French, but Spanish is also used for some technical meetings.
For many years, the WCO has been making progress on the harmonization of international Customs procedures. These efforts have met with considerable success. The WCO developed and introduced the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, which is used world-wide as the basis for classifying goods and for the collection of Customs revenue.
In June 1999, a revised International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures (the Kyoto Convention) was approved by the Council. The revised Convention is a response to the growth in international cargo, the incredible developments in
information technology and a highly competitive international business environment based on quality service and customer satisfaction, all of which have created a conflict with traditional Customs methods and procedures.
The WCO also administers the WTO Valuation Agreement and has recently developed Harmonized Rules of Origin which have been forwarded for consideration by the WTO in Geneva for eventual use by its Members.
Working closely together, the WCO, WTO and UNCTAD are co-ordinating their efforts to remove the remaining barriers to trade by simplifying and harmonizing Customs procedures and processes throughout the world. Combining the influence of the WTO, UNCTAD and the WCO will make a significant contribution to both trade facilitation and trade compliance. This commitment to partnership is further reflected in the close working relationship that the WCO enjoys with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). A Co-operation Agreement between the two organizations seeks to further standardize and improve the level of Customs capabilities world-wide.
Although significant progress has been made, efficient and effective performance is not spread evenly among all Customs administrations, or in all regions of the world. In fact, many Customs administrations are still suffering the ill-effects of inefficiency and corruption. To address this issue, the WCO provides extensive technical assistance to Members and has developed a Customs Reform and Modernization Programme (CRM) which is designed to assist Member administrations which seek to become more self-reliant through better use of resources, strengthening of management capabilities, and designing appropriate and efficient Customs processes and procedures.
Listing in WorldSecurity-index does not imply any endorsement by the WCO of any products.