At the invitation of Mr. Heru Pambudi, Director General, Customs and Excise of the Republic of Indonesia, in his capacity as the WCO Asia/Pacific region Vice-Chair, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General, participated in the Joint Session of the 21st Regional Heads of Customs Administrative Conference and 30th Regional Contact Point Meeting in the Asia/Pacific region, held virtually on 12 November 2020. This extraordinary Joint Session was organized in response to the postponement of each individual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Pambudi expressed his gratitude to the Heads of Customs of the Asia/Pacific region for their active participation in this Joint Session to discuss regional challenges and strategies, while sharing experiences and expanding regional cooperation. He also highlighted the importance of utilizing WCO tools and instruments to their full extent as well as the need to develop close cooperation in the region, so as to take effective measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and achieve common regional goals.
In his address, Dr. Mikuriya explained the measures taken by the WCO to address the COVID-19 pandemic at international level while emphasizing the critical importance of continuous contributions by Members, through updating their measures and best practices or playing an active role in WCO operations. He additionally highlighted some important WCO initiatives to be discussed at the upcoming Policy Commission and Council Sessions, such as the Practical Guidance on Free Zones, the Terms of Reference for the Counterfeiting and Piracy (CAP) Group meetings, E-Commerce Package, Guidance on Small Island Economies, establishment of the Working Group on Passenger Facilitation and Control, development of the COVID-19 tool, and the topic of “Customs handling of dangerous goods”.
The Joint Session was updated on the new 2020-2022 Regional Strategic Plan and progress with implementation of the 2018-2020 Plan, as well as hearing activity reports by the Vice-Chair, Regional Office for Capacity Building Asia/Pacific (ROCB A/P) and Regional Intelligence Liaison Office Asia/Pacific (RILO A/P). The Joint Session also endorsed several decisions on issues of key importance to the region, including the pending issue of nominations for representatives at WCO regional entities, based on proposals by several Members, in addition to the discussions held by the Regional Private Sector Group Asia/Pacific.
The Heads of Customs Administrations exchanged their views on how to keep their Customs administrations operating while combating COVID-19. Furthermore, they discussed regional priorities and strategies, highlighting their own initiatives. They agreed on the importance of expanding and deepening cooperation among countries in the region as well as with the WCO, ROCB A/P and RILO A/P, particularly during challenging periods such as the one the world was currently going through.