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22nd European Customs Law Conference- Dialogue Between Customs and Trade

On 23rd and 24th June 2010 the 22nd European Customs Law Conference was held at the Rheinterassen in Duesseldorf.  The conference focused on the Dialogue Between Customs and Trade. As in former years the European Customs Law Conference 2010 was organized by the European Forum for Foreign Trade, Excise Duties and Customs e.V., this year in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Duesseldorf.

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Opening speeches

After a social get-together at the “Brauerei zum Schiffchen” including a soccer World Cup match of Germany in Duesseldorf’s beautiful historic city on Wednesday night, the conference was opened on Thurdays morning at the conference venue Rheinterassen right next to the Rhein by Prof. Wolffgang and Gerhard Eschenbaum (Deputy Chief Executive, IHK Duesseldorf). Prof. Wolffgang welcomed all delegates and participants of the 22nd European Customs Law Conference and addressed special thanks to Dr. Eschenbaum and the IHK DD, for co-hosting the event. He was delighted to welcome many participants international participants like Mexico and the USA and to see again so many familiar faces from former European Customs Law Conferences. Dr. Eschenbaum stressed the importance of this extremely prestigious conference and said that he was pleased that the conference was held in Duesseldorf, one of the most international platforms in Germany. Dr. Eschenbaum explained that dialogue was an important instrument to improve the operation between customs and trade to reduce bureaucracy. To achieve these goals, according to Eschenbaum, mutual recognition was necessary. As a third speaker, Christoph Wolf (German Association of Chamber s of Industry and Trade, Berlin) gave an opening statement on behalf of the Chambers of Industry and Trade describing the perspective of businesses in the dialogue. For a good cooperation between customs and trade, Wolf considered it necessary that EU guidelines are implemented as trade friendly as possible and that administrative intervention only occurs where necessary.

Dialogue between customs and trade- wishes and experiences

In this first discussion round speakers, representing the side of the economy and trade as well as the side of the customs administration expressed wishes and exchanged experiences regarding a dialogue between customs and trade. The view of trade was expressed by delegates of Deutsche Post DHL and Hugo Boss AG.

1. Reinhard Fischer, Deutsche Post DHL
Reinhard Fischer, speaking on behalf of DHL, described the work of the WCO on the international level, the dialogue within the European Union and the situation in Germany. As  means  to solve some of the existing problems and to improve the situation, Fischer recommanded a strengthening of communcation, especially an increase of information for economic operators, an organized dialogue that starts already at a lower level and a better representation of German delegates in Brussels. Fischer closed his speech stressing that if customs did not serve the trade, the state would fail.

2. Bernd Stadler, Hugo Boss AG Metzingen
The second speech on this topic was held by Bernd Stadtler representing Hugo Boss AG. Stadtler described the situation from the point of view of his enterprise. According to him, the dialogue, in case there was one at all, had to be improved. New procedures of the EU Commission like the AEO or the paperless customs clearence had not lead to less bureaucrcy but had even increased it. The participation in the AEO should be a trust building measuers comprising better treatment. Stadtler closed his speech formulating wishes for the future.  To guarantee a fair competition, uniform rules should apply for everybody and customs law had to be applied in a uniform manner within the EU. Additionaly a simplified procedure should also lead to simplification in economic terms. Therefore a better training of customs officials was required to reduce bureaucracy for enterprises when being screened.

3. Godfried Smit, CEO, Zoetermeer, NDL
In the next presentation Godfried Smit (Zoetermeer, NDL) presented CEO, a central panel in the Netherlands, which is used as a platform of dialogue between customs and trade. He presented the view of the trading community. CEO aims to improve general operating conditions for the logistics of companies in industry and trade hence improving their financial results. All companies which are part of CEO are informed about recent changes in the area of customs law and important documents can be downloaded from the intranet. Smit described CEO as a modern way to exchange important information for enterprises at a central point to reduce bureaucracy and to increase uniformity.

4. Peter Wilmott, Europo, London
Another presentation regarding this issue was delivered by Peter Wilmott, President of EUROPO, London. Wilmott explained that Europo is the European association of trade facilitation organisations. The organisation provides a forum for these bodies, which include EFA, to meet, exchange ideas and develop strategies for influencing European policy and practice in areas affecting the conduct and compliance costs of international trade. For the future Wilmott formulated the wish for genuine innovation in European customs. National and European administrations would mean well, but were sometimes overawed by the sheer practical and political difficulty of moving twenty-seven countries into a new way of jointly managing their customs environment.  Excellent results could only be based on dialogue and genuine partnership. Both, the side of customs and trade, are required to contribute to the process.
In the next part of the panel discussion the point of view of customs administrations was illustrated.

5. Dr. Andrea Reuter, Manager of Customs Office St. Poelten Krems, Wiener Neutstadt
Dr. Reuter described the dialogue from the Austrian point of view. According to her, in Austria there did already exist a dialogue between customs and trade in form of consistent trade rounds where experiences were exchanged. Reuter stressed that it was important to have regulatory meetings to build a bond of trust. Even though dialogue was an important means, where subjects like e-customs or security aspects could be described, Reuter warned that also dialogue had its limits. One central wish for the future was again the improvement of training for customs department in enterprises, so the customs administrations have skilled contact persons.
Serge Gumy, Departmental Manager, Departmental Manager, Swiss Superior Customs Directorate Bern
In the next speech, Serge Gumy, Departmental Manager, Swiss Superior Customs Directorate Bern described the perspective of the Swiss customs administration concerning a dialogue. Gumy delivered two examples how the Swiss customs administration integrated economic operators when new guidelines came into affect or were implemented. The first example was the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO). Since the Swiss customs administration (Eidgenössische Zollverwaltung, EZV) had no experience with respect to the AEO, but the ecomomic operators did, a common working group was created. The group had the task to define the AEO security standard and to figure out how this standard could be complied with. This work contributed to the success of the AEO in Switzerland. The second example concerned “al e-dec”. “all e-dec” is the swiss version of the German electronic customs clearance system ATLAS. This IT-application is constantly further developed. A contact group of economic operators was applied in order to consider the needs of trade in the best possible way. This contact group extended to more than 40 people and is now a platform for exchange of information. Today economic operators support the work of the EZV in many ways. One wish for the future was directed to the economic operators. Gumy said that it would help customs administration, if economic operators spoke as one rather than with many different voices, since only then interests could be considered.

6.Marianne Rowden, CEO, America Association of Exporters and Importers, Wahington D.C.
Another international perspective was given by Marianne Rowden, CEO, American Association of Exporters and Importers, Washington D.C. Rodan stressed that a dialogue would be promoted by an account based managing program. She pointed out, that in America 35 different security programs existed and another 7 additional programs had to be applied. To consider all these programs when conducting trade could be a major problem for enterprises. As a next step Rowden presented different partnership programs in which the USA participated. The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) is a voluntary supply chain security program led by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and focused on improving the security of private companies' supply chains with respect to terrorism. The program was launched in November 2001 with seven initial participants, all large U.S. companies. As of April 2005, there were more than 9000 companies participating. Then Rowden presented another security program, the ISA program, in which currently only about 200 companies participate. The Importer Self-Assessment (ISA) is a voluntary program for resident importers that work with Customs & Border Protection (CBP) to improve trade compliance. If a company has two years of importing experience and is certified in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program, it is eligible. ISA participants take responsibility for self-assessment, and they must control their environment and activities by assessing risk areas and communicating, informing and monitoring their Customs operations.
In her conclusion, Rowden pointed out that the mutual recognition of the American program with other programs of other countries as the AEO and the exchange of data is still low and has to be improved. As of January 2010, four Mutual Recognition Arrangements have been signed. CBP is also currently working with the Customs Administrations of Korea, Singapore and the European Union with the goal of reaching mutual recognition. Mutual Recognition is an important factor because is safes both, money and time.

7. Conclusion, Michael Lux, Head of Unit, TAXUD, European Commission, Brussles
In the panel discussion “Dialogue between Customs and Trade- wishes and experiences”, consisting of seven speakers, both sides, the one of trade and the perspective of the customs administrations were presented. The Hugo Boss AG and Deutsche Post DHL, representing the view of trade, could explain where the dialogue between customs and trade has to be improved and which difficulties companies might have, when dealing with customs. On the other hand Customs administrations could present their programs, explain the difficulties they have when trying to create a dialogue and demonstrate where laws and guidelines set limits to a dialogue. These two sides where complemented by the perspectives from outside the EU like Switzerland and the USA. As a last speaker, Michael Lux, Head of Unit, TAXUD, European Commission, Brussels, responded to the ideas of the speakers describing the perspective of the European Commission. In his contribution, Lux explained how a dialogue could be organized. At first Lux presented the Trade contact group which he had developed as a platform for exchange of information. It meets every two to three month and either the commissions or the economic operators decide which topics are subject to discussion. Further areas where a dialogue takes place are the Customs 2013 working group and the security initiative that protects the European industry.
According to Lux’ understanding the main criticism from the speaker was the insufficient quality of the dialogue. One of the problems is the different interests of AEOs and the Customs administration in a dialogue. Furthermore there are different levels and different abilities to communicate. Then there are substantive problems. It is right that the customs administration should only act when necessary. The problem however is, when is it necessary? Furthermore Lux pointed out that there are several problems that lie within the indirect customs administration of the European Union. Even though the European Customs Code applies to all Members directly, the enforcement of the Customs Code lies within the state authorities. Whenever the Commission is willing to act, it has to make sure, that the laws of all the 27 different customs administrations are not infringed. A further problem is the non-uniform IT-system within the EU. The current IT system is different in all 27 Member states and incompetent to reflect the law. This was a major problem according to LUX. As a next step Lux responded to the criticism about the new paperless clearance. Accordingly, these changes were also implanted in unison with the economic operators. Thus, economic operators cannot start to complain about problem that might occur since they agreed to the change. In his last point Lux characterized the AEO as a necessary step into the right direction and pointed out the advantages. After this presentation a vivid discussion between the speakers and the audience followed.


3. Self-assessment and monitoring- theory and practice (second panel discussion)
4. Risk management in customs- foundations and implementation (availabe soon)Friday, 24th June 2010

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