More than 200 participants from WCO Members, Regional Economic Communities, International Organizations, Academia and the Private Sector attended the WCO Regional Integration Conference at the WCO Headquarters in Brussel on 15-16 June 2015. Several high level speakers addressed the Conference, sharing their insights and national practices with the participants and engaging them in discussions.
The priorities for this Conference had been identified by Members at previous meetings of the WCO Policy Commission and the Permanent Technical Committee, fully realizing that regional integration plays a significant role in development of trade and thus, economic competitiveness at national and regional level. The participants of the Conference discussed the different levels and stages of regional integration, and among others underlined the need for landlocked (developing) countries to be part of regional integration projects to enhance their regional and global connectivity.
The Conference stressed the importance of building trust in regional integration initiatives. Throughout the Conference, many WCO standards, tools and instruments were examined that contribute to the harmonized implementation of trade facilitation initiatives, including the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, also at regional level. Several regional integration projects were touched upon where e.g. the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC), WCO origin tools, WCO Data Model, SAFE Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade, Integrated Supply Chain Management Guidelines, Single Window Compendium and others were used to propel these projects forward and were regarded as key to their success.
Regarding the role of regional integration in the WCO’s Capacity Building efforts, participants pointed out that the needs of regions might differ but that it remained important to continue the needs-based approach of the WCO and wherever possible work with Regional Economic Communities, regional development banks and the WCO’s own regional structures, especially the Regional Offices for Capacity Building (ROCB).
Speakers and participants shared information regarding several regional initiatives including the «Programme d’Appui au Commerce et à l’Intégration Régionale» (PACIR) in West Africa, the East African Community’s regional Authorized Economic Operator approach and its Single Customs Territory, recent developments of the Arab Mediterranean Free Trade Agreement, the Pacific Alliance and the Eurasian Economic Community, regional risk management including cooperation with the private sector in the Americas; the regional coaching approach in West and Central Africa; transit experience with the TIR and the NCTS systems, the cooperation on interconnectivity between China and the Netherlands, not only for Customs but also SPS authorities and between Customs and SPS authorities, the One-Stop-Border-Posts projects of Malawi and the Coordinated Border Management activities of Canada in the regional context.
The Conference did not only promote WCO tools and approaches, but also raised awareness of the many regional integration initiatives, projects and activities already underway in the area. It also provided an excellent networking opportunity for participants to meet counterparts and representatives of International Organizations such as the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), the International Road Transport Union (IRU) and many others.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General of the WCO, thanked all panelists and participants for having shared their insights on their regional integration initiatives. He strongly confirmed that the WCO would continue to provide the platform to develop tools and instruments that will support regional integration initiatives and to share respective experiences on regional integration.
For further information on the Conference, please visit