Chairperson of the Council of the World Customs Organization (WCO) and Director General of Uruguay Customs
Background and chronology of the Project “Regional Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA)”
The initiative for the establishment of a Regional Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) on Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) for the Americas has been promoted by Uruguay Customs along with other Customs administrations of the continent with the following objectives:
- To ensure high levels of Customs security throughout the supply chain of goods
- To promote the harmonization and standardization of the processes linked to the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) Programs and the optimization of resources, aligning us with international trends in the negotiation of MRAs, and
- Thus contributing to the trade and economic integration of the region.
The AEO concept, one of the most important mechanisms available to Customs for the benefit of legitimate trade and the security of logistics chains, has proliferated and has been strengthened in the Americas Region as a result of the efforts made by Customs. During the first stage of development of the AEO Programs, the countries of the region have made bilateral progress in the mutual recognition of their certified operators, and now they face the challenge of aligning themselves to the new modalities for negotiation of MRAs.
In this context, MRAs with a regional / multilateral focus are gaining relevance worldwide, to reduce or eliminate the need for a series of bilateral negotiations and the administrative costs associated with them. Such an approach not only decreases the number of MRAs but also introduces a greater degree of harmonization and standardization of AEO programs, while improving coordinated border management and creating a common understanding of regional problems and challenges.
The signing of the first multilateral MRA by the Pacific Alliance (PA) countries (Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and Peru) on July 21, 2018 is a highlight at the regional level.
Likewise, on July 24th 2018, within the framework of the XIII Summit of the Pacific Alliance, the Presidents of the countries that constitute the PA and MERCOSUR signed the Presidential Declaration of Puerto Vallarta, which included developing and increasing the work towards the signing of an MRA between both blocks.
It is interesting to note that the launch of the Regional MRA initiative took place in November 2017, within the framework of the event organized by PROCOMEX “International Seminar on AEO Programs in the Southern Cone countries”, which was attended by representatives of eight Customs Administrations of the Region.
In June 2018, in the city of Brussels, Belgium, the Directors of thirteen Customs Administrations of the Region signed a Letter of Intent with the purpose of formalizing their willingness to be part of this project for the mutual recognition of AEO Programs between the Customs of the region.
This initiative promoted by Uruguay Customs has had a broad favourable impact, having adhered to it the following Customs Administrations (13): Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic and Uruguay.
During November 26 and 27, 2018, in the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil, seminars were held related to the AEO Programs of the countries of the Americas and their necessary integration to strengthen the security of the international supply chain of goods, the promotion of the competitiveness of the operators of the region and the facilitation of intra-regional trade. This event was organized by PROCOMEX, the Federal Revenue of Brazil, and I participated in it as Chairperson of the Council of the World Customs Organization (WCO) and Director General of Uruguay Customs.
At the same time, the first working meeting for the Regional MRA AEO Project was held among the Directors of 9 Customs present in Sao Paulo, Brazil: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic and Uruguay. As a result, the Directors signed “The São Paulo Declaration” reiterating their commitment and willingness to advance in the project and reaffirming the importance of the mutual recognition of AEO Programs as an instrument for trade integration and facilitation, and in the interest of smoother and more secure trade.
Meanwhile, and independently, the first Meeting of the Regional Private Sector Group of the Americas was held, aimed at exchanging opinions about its role in the instruments and standards proposed by the WCO in the region.
The first product derived from the aforementioned background consisted in the development of an “Action Plan for the Regional MRA Project of Authorized Economic Operators” and its corresponding budget, estimating the necessary costs for the development of the negotiations and the joint validations, necessary for the achievement of the Regional MRA.
This Plan and budget are currently under evaluation by potential donors. Currently, negotiations are being held with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), WCO, Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation, the Organization of American States (OAS)’s Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE), among others, in the search for possible sources of funding and / or technical assistance for the development of the activities foreseen in the Action Plan for a Regional AEO.
Within this framework, and recognizing the importance for the Region of the progress in the work aimed at achieving a greater degree of harmonization and standardization of the AEO Programs with a regional and multilateral approach, the IDB has expressed its interest in supporting and financing part of the work to be done.
By 2019, the objectives are focused on continuing to make the Plan agreed by the Customs Administrations viable, promoting the incorporation of other administrations of the Region, while promoting greater benefits for the operators included in the AEO Programs and also in the Regional MRA to other Government agencies present at the border.
The initial activities include the theoretical comparison of AEO Programs, and the planning of the visits for joint validations in the different countries members of the project. In addition, activities must be established to discuss the benefits and the necessary procedures for granting those benefits, mechanisms for information exchange, as well as the final drafting of the MRA.
In parallel with the tasks described above, between February 10 and 15, 2019, the first joint evaluation of the AEO Program of the Customs of the Republic of Argentina was held in Buenos Aires. AEO experts from Customs of the 8 signatory countries of the Declaration of Sao Paulo met in Buenos Aires to carry out this evaluation. The evaluation of the AEO Programs of the remaining 8 countries will continue this year.