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Heads of Delegation of some 130 World Customs Organization (WCO) Member Customs administrations took part in the virtual meeting of the 138th Session of the WCO Council, held from 24 to 26 June 2021. As the world is bracing for recovery with a glimmer of optimism emerging from the global effort regarding vaccinations, this session focused on Capacity Building, Rules of Origin, Valuation, Nomenclature and Classification, Compliance and Trade Facilitation as well as budgetary and financial matters.

“The ongoing pandemic has accentuated the relevance of Customs in ensuring connectivity at borders and maintaining the integrity of global supply chains to facilitate the cross-border movement of medicines, vaccines and other essential goods,” stated WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya. “The discussions at this year’s Council session demonstrated that the Customs family remains united and supports the WCO Secretariat in its endeavour to better serve its Members and assist them in the ongoing recovery process and plan for the renewal of Customs procedures in a post-pandemic world,” he added.

Based on a number of recommendations emanating by the preceding 85th Session of the Policy Commission, the Council endorsed a number of new and ongoing initiatives focused on global Customs priorities and aimed at streamlining Customs operations across the globe. Members also adopted the necessary technical documents and guidance materials to ensure the smooth implementation of the 2022 version of the Harmonized System, recognizing its importance as a flagship Convention of the Organization.

The Council noted the updates on the implementation of the WCO COVID-19 Action Plan, which provides a list of 25 actions to implement the Council Resolution on the role of Customs in facilitating the cross-border movement of situationally critical medicines and vaccines and adopted the WCO Guidelines on disaster management and supply chain continuity that provide clear recommendations and best practices aimed at ensuring that Customs administrations are better prepared to respond and recover potential from future pandemics and natural disasters.

The Council adopted the 2021 edition of the SAFE Framework of Standards (SAFE FoS) and took note of the new tools of the SAFE Package 2021. Several new features have been added to the SAFE FoS 2021, namely, ways for enhancing collaboration with other government agencies, the inclusion of “smart security devices” under the relevant pillars of the standards, the development of regional Customs or economic union Authorized Economic Operators (OEA) programmes and the implementation of mutual recognition in the SAFE FoS among others.