- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 22, 2005

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert C. Bonner is in Brussels this week to urge members of the World Customs Organization to adopt a “framework of standards” to better secure and facilitate international trade.

The 166-member WCO, established in 1952 as an independent intergovernmental body to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of global trade, is expected to decide by tomorrow whether to adopt a set of common standards for governments and the trade community to include the movement of 99 percent of the world’s trade.

“The framework represents a worldwide strategy that all nations can implement in order to combat global terrorism and to protect trade and our economies. And, it has the potential to revolutionize the security and efficient movement of global trade,” Mr. Bonner said. “But its potential counts for little unless it is adopted and implemented.”

Since the September 11 attacks, the WCO has been working with international organizations and the global business community on a new set of rules, or framework, that would provide better security and facilitate the movement of trade. The results of that effort will be submitted for adoption this week.

Michel Danet, WCO secretary-general, said the framework of standards represents the “collective efforts of a sizable segment of the world community” to secure international trade in response to growing threats from many quarters, including international terrorists, organized criminal syndicates and other attempts at fraud.

Mr. Bonner said adoption of the standards will benefit the trade community by establishing a common set of international principles that signal a global movement toward more secure and efficient trade. He also said the framework of standards would translate into “concrete benefits for the private sector.”

The proposed standards reflect guidelines contained in existing CBP security initiatives, including the Container Security Initiative (CSI) and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) — which include prescreening of high-risk outbound containerized cargo based upon a risk-management system and reduced inspections for traders that meet the criteria.

To show CBP’s commitment to making the framework a success, Mr. Bonner said CBP has pledged to assist countries in obtaining detection equipment and training in security and risk management and to help ensure that WCO members’ customs-related capacity-building needs are met.

“Nations that truly demonstrate they have high-level political will and commitment to implement the framework will need — and deserve — capacity-building assistance,” he said.

The proposed framework, in part, harmonizes advance electronic cargo-information requirements on inbound, outbound and transit shipments; requires country commitments to employ a consistent risk-management approach to address security threats; and requires countries to perform outbound inspections of high-risk containers and cargo.

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