Suva, Fiji, 6 September 2022 – Customs administrations in the region must continue to digitise and modernise their administrations to strengthen trade facilitation, enhance revenue collection and better protect our borders. Despite ongoing resource and organisational priority shifts caused by challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, money laundering, illicit drug trafficking and the import of counterfeit items this evolution should remain a focus, says Oceania Customs Organisation (OCO) Chairman Xavier Mitchell.
This week heads of Customs administrations from 23 countries in the region, members of the Oceania Customs Organisation, will meet virtually for their annual conference with the theme “Scaling up Customs Digitisation in the Pacific”.
“Customs administrations have increasing responsibilities which they must fulfil with constrained resources,” Mr. Mitchell said. “It’s a tough balancing act – we must facilitate trade, collect revenue and secure our borders. Digitising our processes and systems will help us carry out these roles more effectively and efficiently. We also need to continually review our systems and processes to ensure that our business needs and Government expectations are met.”
Ongoing border restrictions and uncertainty has meant that for the third year running OCO’s annual conference will be hosted virtually.
Mr. Mitchell said that while border closures had created challenges for Customs administrations across the region it also meant that different ways of working were developed to safely manage the movement of people goods and craft across borders. Ongoing staff development was also important and the OCO was able to effectively ramp up virtual training opportunities to cater for a larger volume being able to attend.
“For example, with the valuable support of the Centre for Customs and Excise Studies (CCES), the OCO were able to register 80 participants from 17 countries for the Certificate III in Regional Customs Administrations course. This was the largest training ever conducted by OCO. This certification is very important for those Customs officers who did not have formal qualifications.”
“These courses increase the technical capacity of our Customs officials and because they are both accredited, they are pathways to higher qualification,” Mr. Mitchell said.
Complementing the above virtual work was the development of an online Customs Broker course and Mr. Mitchel noted that this could be adopted as a regional model for registering Customs Brokers.
Also critically important and a core part of scaling up Customs Digitization in the Pacific is the ongoing work of UNCTAD with several member countries to develop and roll out the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA World) as their core border management systems.
About OCO: OCO is a grouping of 23 customs administrations in the Pacific region. It facilitates regional cooperation, information sharing and capacity building of its members with the overall target of supporting economic growth and improved border security in the Pacific.