GCN Special Report: World customs groups try to get standards in order

Whatever standards the United States puts in place to safeguard the flow of goods into and out of the country, those standards are only as good as the willingness of trade partners around the world to embrace them.

That embrace proved stronger than expected on June 23, when the World Customs Organization adopted a framework for securing and facilitating trade. Robert Bonner, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, represented the United States at the conference in Brussels, Belgium, where the framework was ratified.

The WCO is an independent, intergovernmental organization with 166 member nations representing 99 percent of all world trade.

The new framework reflects an international strategy to combat terrorism while protecting trade and the global economy. It incorporates many of the elements of the U.S. strategy for protecting cargo and ports'including the 24-Hour Rule, the Automated Targeting System for assessing the terrorist threat at CBP's National Targeting Center, the Container Security Initiative, and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terror. It also stresses the need for interoperable technologies to facilitate the flow of information.

'The WCO Framework is based in large measure on the principles underlying the initiatives designed and implemented by CBP in the aftermath of 9/11,' Bonner said in a statement.

In particular, the framework calls for Customs-to-Customs networking in order to exchange timely and accurate information and manage risk more effectively. That's to be accomplished in part by using electronic information gathered in advance to identify high-risk containers or cargo.

The WCO agreement also includes provisions for joint targeting and screening, using standardized targeting criteria, and agreement that screening should be undertaken as early in the supply chain as possible.

(Details of the agreement can be found at www.gcn.com, GCN.com/451.)

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