At the invitation of Mr. Davit Ananyan, Chairman of the State Revenue Committee of Armenia, the WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, visited Yerevan, Armenia on 18 and 19 November 2019 to attend a regional Conference on Digital Solutions, entitled “Digital solutions for cross-border cooperation and trade facilitation”, and to observe a newly-opened local Customs clearance centre in the country’s northern region.
The regional Conference, co-organized by Armenia with the support of the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was attended by Customs administrations and experts from international organizations and the private sector, representing 17 countries and coming together to share their experience and initiatives in the area of Customs digitization.
The event was opened by Mr. Tigran Avinyan, Armenia’s Deputy Prime Minister. In his opening remarks, Dr. Mikuriya spoke about three levels of digitization, namely Customs-to-Customs, Customs-to-Business and Customs-to-Other Government Agencies (OGAs), as the basis for risk management systems. He welcomed the signing of agreements on digital cooperation, at the Conference, between Armenia and Georgia as well as between Armenia and Iran as a means of achieving smoother transit.
As business sought transparency and predictability, it was crucial to simplify border procedures by using IT systems for enhanced cooperation between Customs and business. Secretary General Mikuriya referred to Armenia’s IT-oriented policy as an advantage in this respect, providing a basis for trust development between Customs and business. Coordinated Border Management (CBM) would also be enhanced through Single Window systems. In this connection, the Secretary General applauded Armenia’s efforts to promote the WCO Data Model in the sub-region.
The Conference played host to signing ceremonies for agreements between Armenia and Georgia on electronic data exchange and e-seals, and between Armenia and Iran on electronic data exchange. The experts in attendance at the Conference then had an opportunity to share their practices in these areas.
In the margins of the Conference, Dr. Mikuriya met with H.E. Nikol Pashinyan, Prime Minister of Armenia, to discuss how best to enhance cooperation between Armenia and the WCO.
Dr. Mikuriya also had an opportunity to visit the Gyumri Customs Terminal, which had just begun partial operations for car imports through Georgia. The plan was to gradually enlarge the terminal and make it into a Foreign Trade Service Center for the clearance of all goods coming from Georgia, while a similar terminal would be developed in the southern part of the country to clear goods coming from Iran.
This decentralized approach to Customs clearance was expected to ease the volume of goods processed in Yerevan and to promote local economies as a result. Ms. Shushanik Nersisyan, Deputy Chairman in Charge of Customs, explained the plan, stressing to Dr. Mikuriya that 70% of the newly-employed officers at the terminal were female, thus ensuring high quality front-office Customs services and moving forward with the Customs Administration’s gender equality agenda.