The World Customs Organisation (WCO) is an independent intergovernmental body that serves as the voice of the customs community.
It was set up to make customs administrations around the world more efficient, coordinated and effective.
Key facts about WCO:
- The WCO has 180 members and these members are customs administrations from all over the world.
- Three quarters of WCO members are developing countries.
- WCO members are responsible for managing more than 98% of world trade.
- The WCO started out in 1952 as the Customs Co-operation Council.
- The WCO is managed by a Council, which relies on a Secretariat of 100+ international officials, technical experts and support staff.
- The WCO is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.
- The WCO does not deal with complaints about customs, for example customs duties – as an intergovernmental organisation it is not responsible for administration of national legislation and specifically states that it doesn’t have competence in it.
- The official languages of the WCO are English and French.
- The WCO is funded by annual contributions from members, as well as voluntary contributions and donations.
- The WCO has been responsible for a number of customs instruments, such as The International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System.
World Customs Organization profile:
The WCO calls itself the voice of the customs community and is the sole international organisation with competence in Customs matters. This makes it a key force in helping to grow legitimate international trade, as well as developing measures to deal with fraud and theft.
The WCO’s purpose is to strengthen the ties between Customs administrations and their partners so as to create a customs environment that is strong and transparent.
It has also made it a priority to assist with protection of society and the national territory, and to secure and facilitate international trade, especially in the face of threats from global terrorism.
The WCO believes that borders divide but customs connect. It describes its vision as “dynamically leading modernisation and connectivity in a rapidly changing world’ and states is mission to be providing leadership, guidance and support to Customs administrations to secure and facilitate legitimate trade, realise revenues, protect society and build capacity.
Criteria for membership:
WCO members are customs administrations so there are no membership criteria listed on the website.
Opinions about the WCO:
The WCO is a well-established global customs body with an entry in the encyclopedia Britannica. The World Trade Organisation describes the WCO as a body that it regularly cooperates with, specifically concerning the classification of goods.
The WCO is mentioned on government websites, described as providing “leadership in expanding the avenues of international trade and security” and clearly has recognised international status. In terms of members, those who join tend to announce this – for example, the European Union, which announced that the WCO had accepted its application for membership as of 1 July 2007.
All Customs matters, including the development of global instruments, standards and tools, the simplification and harmonization of Customs procedures, the promotion of economic competitiveness, the security and facilitation of the global supply chain, the enhancement of Customs enforcement and compliance activities, the protection of public health and safety, the maintenance of the international Harmonized System goods nomenclature, revenue assurance, sustainable Customs capacity building and technical assistance, and the management of the WTO Agreements on Customs Valuation and Rules of Origin, as well as the United Nations (UN) Convention on Containers, 1972
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