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The Implementation of the SAFE Framework of Standards: Comparison between Brazil, the European Community and USA

by Fernanda Maria Barcellos Herrmann, LL.B. (São Paulo), LL.M. (Münster)

International trade is one of the drivers of the global economy and responsible for its prosperity. And its environment has faced a huge change in the last years. For instance, import and export of goods considerably increased as a result of the reduction of duty rates and the conclusion of Trade Agreement between countries. In addition, since the September 11, 2001 attacks (often referred to as 9/11) in the United States of America, the political focus changed all over the world: current objectives are to counter terrorist threats and prevent terrorist acts. International trade is also vulnerable to terrorist attacks. For this reason, securing the international supply chain and simplifying international trade procedures became a strategic global issue for governments and their customs administrations in the 21st century.

As a result of the need to secure and facilitate international trade, the World Customs Organization (WCO) adopted in June 2005 the SAFE Framework of Standards (hereinafter referred to as „SAFE Framework“), which is an international instrument based on the Revised Kyoto Convention,1999. The SAFE Framework establish Standards which aim to enable and support the implementation of a secure supply chain and simplified trade procedures at a global level, strengthen the Customs-to-Business partnership as well as establish the co-operation between the Customs Administrations of each WCO-Member.

The Resolution on the SAFE Framework consists of four core elements (risk management, risk assessment, advanced electronic cargo information and authorized economic operator programm) and rests on two pillars, so-called „Customs-to-Customs“ and „Customs-to-Business“. A set of 17 standards should be implemented in each country, so that the main goal is achieved: security and facilitation of the international supply chain.

Although the SAFE Framework is (so far) not a binding rule its „advisable aspect“ has already been recognized by many WCO-Members: in other words, for the ones who want to continue playing an important role in the international trade of the new century, there seems to be no way out. The adoption of the SAFE Framework requires the full implementation of all of its 17 standards with no exceptions. The WCO-Members should inform the WCO about their intention to implement the SAFE Framework.

In December 2007 many WCO-Members joined the World Customs Forum 2007 in Bruxel, Belgium. The Forum brought an overview of the SAFE Framework and pointed out how could it be further developed, which steps should be taken for the success of this initative. At the Forum the WCO-Members had the opportunity to give their opinion about the SAFE Framework, as well as inform about the status of the implementation in their countries. Brazil, the United States of America and the European Community (27 Member-Countries) include the list of 154 WCO-Members (status June 2008) that have expressed their intention to implement the SAFE Framework.

The purpose of this work is to present the measures undertaken as well as programs implemented by the above-mentioned countries and customs union, respectively, to secure and facilitate the international trade in accordance to the SAFE Framework of Standards. An overview of the SAFE Framework of Standards, its concepts and benefits of its implementation will be given. A brief description of current import and export procedures in each analysed WCO-Member will also be part of the present work. Status of mutual recognition as well as a critical analysis of obstacles that must be faced will be presented. Special focus will be given to the Authorized Economic Operator Programs by means of a comparative study.

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