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Customs administrations role in the region more critical than ever

Jan 26, 2022

PR 02/22    Suva, Fiji, January 26, 2022– Today, we celebrate and pay tribute to the work of Customs officers as front-liners keeping our borders safe, as critical market players enabling the free flow of goods in the region and as revenue collectors to allow governments to continue to provide critical services to their citizens.

Across the globe, the 183 members of the World Customs Organization (WCO) are celebrating International Customs Day today with the theme focusing on digital data, Customs Digital Transformation by Embracing a Data Culture and Building a Data Ecosystem”.

In recognition that OCO members are in various stages of digital development, the OCO Secretariat has decided this year will be themed as “Embracing Customs Technology”– to encourage all our members to prepare and adapt to a technologically proficient Customs service.

 “In the Pacific over the last two years, the OCO Secretariat and our members have had to navigate our way through the COVID-19 pandemic and find new ways to remain responsive and serve our stakeholders,” OCO Head of Secretariat, Richard Brennan said.

“This has included a shift to online functionality in service delivery with a renewed focus on core Customs skill required by the frontline officers. The modern work of Customs requires an automated function and use of technology to facilitate trade, collect revenue, and utilise risk based limited interventions on cargo through automated lane assignment.

“OCO has been endeavoring to deliver automation across our membership for some time and with the advent of the Automated Systems for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) project from UNCTAD, through its Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus and the European Development Fund 11- IMPACT(EDF11) project, we will see this eventuate into a reality in the next few years across our broader membership, we have recently witnessed Kiribati and Tuvalu shift to ASYCUDA, so it is happening.”

In the Pacific, Vanuatu is one of the countries that has taken a lead role in e-commerce with its electronic single window system allowing Customs and Biosecurity clearances to be done online.

Meanwhile, Mr. Brennan also thanked all Customs officers in the region for being diligent in their work for the benefit of all Pacific Islanders.

“It is not just COVID-19 that they are trying to keep you safe from, we must remember they are also working against criminals trying to infiltrate the region with illicit drugs, guns and contrabands,” Mr. Brennan said.

“We have done well in the last two years, but it has not been a good start to 2022 for us in region with Samoa and Solomon Islands confirming their COVID-19 cases.

“Further, we think of our Tongan family- the OCO Secretariat is ready to provide any possible support to the Ministry of Revenue and Customs in Tonga. We understand the critical role Tonga’s Customs administration will play in ensuring that relief assistances are provided in a timely manner and at the same time COVID-19 protocols at the borders are followed as Tonga is still COVID free. OCO members are ready to support our Tongan counterparts in whichever way we can.

“We are the Pacific, we strengthen our resilience by embracing technology. Happy International Customs Day.”

ENDS

For more information, queries, or interview requests, please email MediaOCO@ocosec.org

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.

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