SAFE Working Group kicks off 2021 cycle with a futuristic agenda

The SAFE Working Group (SWG) met for the 20th time from 17 to 19 October 2018 at the WCO headquarters in Brussels. It brought together over 150 delegates from Customs administrations, partner government agencies, the Private Sector Consultative Group (PSCG), international organizations and academia to discuss and develop collaborative solutions for enhancing supply chain security and efficiency.

Opening the meeting, Mr. Ernani Checcucci, WCO Director Capacity Building, welcomed all the SWG delegates, congratulating them on the successful finalization and publication of the 2018 edition of the SAFE Framework of Standards along with several new and updated tools in the form of the SAFE Package 2018. Given the global security concerns including increasing cyber security threats and the renewed focus on trade facilitation, he stressed the need for harmonized and effective implementation of various standards of the SAFE Framework of Standards around the world and encouraged delegates to think ‘out of box’ to find innovative solutions, going beyond legacy processes and systems.

The Co-Chairs Ms. Suzanne Stauffer (the EU) and Mr. John Mein (the PSCG) underlined the importance of the SAFE Framework of Standards, noting its flexibility to adapt to new threats and challenges, and underlined the need for sustained efforts for consistent and robust implementation, while exploring new opportunities for collaborative partnerships.

Through breakout and plenary sessions, the SWG discussed the current security environment, took stock of the SAFE implementation scenario, identified potential opportunities for effective and harmonized implementation, and provided a number of suggestions including a potential need for a monitoring mechanism/peer reviews.

Initiating a new SAFE cycle 2021, the SWG held extensive deliberations on several futuristic topics such as the use of e-seals in the supply chain management, regional/plurilateral approaches to AEO programmes and MRAs, the inclusion of E-Commerce stakeholders in AEO programmes, the use of cutting-edge technologies such as blockchains for an efficient implementation of AEO programmes and MRAs. This led to a number of tangible outcomes and suggestions, setting out the agenda for further work.

Other highlights of this meeting include the progress on implementing Phase 2 of the Unified File Format (UFF) Development Programme and the preliminary outcomes of the Dutch Customs pre-pilot, as well as Pre-loading Advance Cargo Information (PLACI) for air cargo security. The SWG agreed a document detailing the “Guiding Principles for Pre-loading Advance Cargo Information” will be enhanced and included in the 2021 review of the SAFE Framework of Standards.

Furthermore, the SWG discussed the advance electronic information (AEI) SAFE Dataset based on the preliminary analysis of Members’ responses to a survey and agreed to continue further discussions and work during the 2021 SAFE review cycle with respect to a potential update and maintenance of the SAFE Dataset and related business processes including its (re-) mapping with the latest version of the WCO Data Model.
Throughout the meeting, many interesting and very informative presentations and interventions were made by several delegates and experts from the industry and academia on the implementation of various aspects of the SAFE and AEO programmes, as well as efficient negotiation and implementation of MRAs, using the relevant WCO tools.

Finally, the SWG, through a panel discussion, deliberated and provided operational perspectives on how new elements of Pillar 3 of the SAFE Framework of Standards could further contribute to enhancing supply chain security and facilitation by strengthening cooperation between Customs administrations and other government agencies such as immigration, post, and border force. It examined the business case for, and provided guidance on, the interoperability of processes and systems for strengthening collaboration between and among various government agencies within and across the border, with a view to developing a guidance on interoperability of processes and systems within the framework of the 2021 SAFE review cycle.