At the invitation of Minister Yu Guangzhou of China Customs, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya delivered a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the «Connectivity and Win-win Development Forum for Heads of Customs Administrations along the Belt and Road», held in Xi’an, China on 27-28 May 2015.
In his speech, Secretary General Mikuriya recalled that the ancient Silk Road linked several civilizations in Asia, Europe and Africa bringing prosperity with the flow of goods, people and knowledge along the road and was one of the precursors of the current global trading and Customs systems.
In today’s context, he said that the new Belt and Road initiative proposed by China (the «Silk Road Economic Belt» and the «21st Century Maritime Silk Road») would link several initiatives strengthening regional integration in East Asia (such as the “ASEAN Economic Community” and the «Factory Asia»), Central Asia (such as the “Eurasian Community” and the “Shanghai Cooperation Organization”), Europe (such as the “European Union”) and Africa (such as the “Continental-wide Free Trade Area” supported by the regional economic communities).
While many economies are vying to gain economic competitiveness through global and regional integration, Secretary General Mikuriya emphasised that the Belt and Road initiative was inspirational in stressing the need for connecting endeavours of regional integration, which required the implementation of the WCO global standards such as the Revised Kyoto Convention for simplification and harmonization of Customs procedures.
He went on to say that Customs-to-Customs cooperation, Coordinated Border Management involving other government agencies and Customs-business partnerships would enable businesses, including small and medium sized enterprises to gain access to economies and prosper along the Belt and Road while enabling Customs administrations to enhance its risk-based approach on the supply chain and make a contribution to protecting society from illicit trade. In this context he offered capacity building assistance for Customs reforms with WCO standards and programmes to secure and facilitate trade along the Belt and Road to bring prosperity and stability to the world.
Vice Premier Wang Yang also delivered a keynote speech where he explained that the implementation of the Belt and Road initiative would instil vigour and vitality into the ancient Silk Road, connect countries and regions along the Belt and Road, as well as promote mutually beneficial cooperation. He stressed the importance of Customs in promoting connectivity along the Belt and Road by highlighting several key measures including Authorized Economic Operator (AEO), Single Window and the need for Customs modernization.
The Forum gathered high-level Customs representatives from 64 countries and 8 international and regional organizations. Following the opening ceremony, the participants exchanged their experiences and insights through three parallel sub-forums. At the closing, they adopted the Xi’an Statement on Strengthening of Connectivity by Customs Administrations along the Belt and Road Supported by WCO Instruments and Tools. All the participants appreciated the excellent organization and warm hospitality offered by Minister Yu and his Customs team as well as by the People’s Government of Shaanxi Province.