6th WCO Global AEO Conference promotes modernization of AEO programmes

VCN - The 6th WCO Global AEO Conference was held in Shenzhen, China from May 8 - 10, with the theme “Harnessing the Power of AEO Programmes for Inclusive and Sustainable Global Trade”. The event attracted over 1,200 attendees from 108 countries and territories, including delegates from Customs administrations, international organizations, academic institutions, representatives from the private sector, non-governmental organizations and Development Banks, 15 sponsors, and 59 booths of enterprises and technology solution providers.
6th WCO Global AEO Conference opens in Shenzhen, China 6th WCO Global AEO Conference opens in Shenzhen, China
6th WCO Global AEO Conference promotes modernization of AEO programmes
The first plenary session moderated by the WCO Secretary General Ian Saunders

The Conference aims to explore solutions of AEO programmes and Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) to ensure global trade and promote economic development, and provides a forum for Customs administrations, other government agencies, academies, the private sector and other stakeholders to connect with each other. The conference was officially launched by Mr. Ian Saunders, the WCO Secretary General, the Vice Minister of the General Administration of China Customs (GACC), Mr. Wang Lingjun, and the Mayor of Shenzhen City, Mr. Qin Weizhong.

The three-day conference features 8 plenary sessions and 6 breakout sessions with 80 speakers. The sessions cover a wide range of topics pertinent to AEO programmes, including the trend of implementing AEO program and the visions for future development, the interaction between Customs modernization and benefits brought to AEOs, assessment of the impact of the AEO programmes in promoting economic growth and global supply chain security, expansion of the AEO concept to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) as well as women-owned businesses, promotion of the sustainability of legitimate trade flows, thereby minimizing security and safety risks to global supply chains.

The connection between Customs modernization and the benefits provided to AEOs attracted the most attention in the conference. These sessions focused on exploiting applications such as AI, Machine Learning, the Internet of Things, the Global Positioning System (GPS) into Customs modernization as well as supply chain management. Many Customs administrations shared the application of Machine Learning and AI to analyze big data to improve the effectiveness of risk management, compliance management, and taking measures to facilitate international trade. In addition, global technology providers offered solutions to standardize, digitize and automate data, processes and procedures, contributing to achieving the goals of AEO programmes such as faster customs clearance, attracting the participation of many good compliance companies and more effective risk management.

At the conference, speakers discussed and analyzed the challenges and opportunities brought by the AEO Mutual Recognition Agreements (AEO MRAs) signed at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. This is one of the key contents related to the AEO programme implementation. Delegates made recommendations on solutions to improve the effectiveness of monitoring the implementation of AEO MRAs to bring practical benefits to AEOs. Some challenges of implementing ASEAN AEO MRA (Vietnam joined it in September 2023) were also presented at this Conference, including the varying levels of AEO programmes, the slow pace of joint validations, the request to involve other government agencies as well as the activeness of the private sector.

Representatives from the WCO, Customs administrations, international organizations (such as the World Trade Organization) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) supported for expanding AEO concepts to MSMEs and creating opportunities for women to participate in the global trade ecosystem through AEO programmes. Appreciating the role of MSMEs, with the participation of disadvantaged labor forces including women, the WTO has developed a program to collect information from Customs administrations of countries that have MSMEs participate in the AEO programme. Accordingly, many suggestions on measures to support MSMEs to participate in the AEO programmes were provided at the conference, including designing criteria and implementing flexible measures in assessing the security compliance level, promoting training and cooperation in information sharing and problem-solving.

6th WCO Global AEO Conference promotes modernization of AEO programmes
The Delegation of Vietnam Customs at the Conference.

The Conference offered several strategic discussion sessions on new trends, potential challenges, and opportunities shaping the future of AEO programmes and its impact on Customs, businesses and the society. The delegates appreciated the positive results of the AEO programmes implemented by about 100 countries and territories in the world with more than 108 AEO MRAs, which have built a legal and safe trade flow, contributing to economic development and fostering the recovery process after the COVID crisis. However, to adapt to the sustainable development of the supply chains, AEO programmes need to be upgraded towards applying modern technologies, especially AI technology and smart security equipment to improve risk management efficiency, facilitate trade and ensure supply chain safety. The sustainable and comprehensive development trend of AEO programmes has attracted lots of attention from representatives of Customs administrations. In addition, the WCO and Customs administrations are recommended to promote the AEO concept to other Government agencies and international organizations to attract relevant border agencies participating in the programmes, reducing compliance costs for businesses and enhancing management efficiency.

In the final plenary session, the Conference focused on discussing the topic of promoting cooperation, exchange, and compatibility of standards and management methods of the AEO programme with security programmes of other Government agencies (such as air cargo security programme, and postal security programme). The delegates emphasized the importance of coordinating and harmonizing security requirements to bring significant, tangible benefits to AEOs within the framework of border management coordination. Speakers from international organizations (ICAO, UPU), and Customs administrations presented the cooperation and harmonization of processes and standards, minimizing duplication and promoting coordination between agencies, aiming to improve efficiency of supply chain management and trade security.

The 6th WCO Global AEO Conference closed successfully, leaving us with deep impressions of the modern and civilized Shenzhen city and a great platform contributing to improving global Customs-Business partnerships.

By Khanh Hong – The Customs Reform and Modernization Board

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