Alfonso Rojas Gonzalez de Castilla
Chairman of the Private Sector Regional Group for The Americas
The Private Sector Consultative Group for The Americas (hereinafter referred to as PSRG-A) was formed for the purpose of informing and advising the Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), the Policy Commission and the Customs Members of WCO on international trade matters from the perspective of the private sector. The PSCG is chaired by John Mein, Executive Coordinator of the Procomex Institute in Brazil, and currently has 27 members.
At the PSCG meetings at WCO’s headquarters in Brussels, we find it difficult to involve the private sector in all countries and all regions of the world. Hence, a proposal of the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) to establish a Regional PSCG that brings together the English-speaking countries of Africa. The initiative is agreed upon at the WCO’s AEO Global Conference held in Kampala, Uganda, on March 14-18, 2018. This is how the development of regional groups of the PSCG was born, the first of them being established in East Africa.
In the region of the Americas, it is during the XXI Regional Conference of Directors of Customs of the Region of the Americas and the Caribbean (CRDGA), held in Los Cabos, Baja California, on April 16-20, 2018, and coinciding with the XXXIX Meeting of National Customs Directors of the Multilateral Agreement on Cooperation and Mutual Assistance of Customs in Latin America, Spain and Portugal (Comalep), when a joint meeting was held with representatives of the private sector and John Mein, Chairman of the WCO PSCG, presented the proposal to create a Private Sector Regional Group for the Americas. The officials present, including WCO Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General, approve it.
In the Asia-Pacific Region, it is during the bi-annual private sector conference in Fiji, on July 14, 2018, that the development of the regional PSRG begins.
Establishment of the PSRG-The Americas, Leadership and Thematic Working Groups
On November 26, the first meeting of the Regional Private Sector Regional Group for the Americas (PSRG Americas) took place in Sao Paulo. The representatives of the private sector in the meeting agreed on the conformation, terms of reference, thematic priorities and leadership of the PSRG Americas. At the proposal of John Mein, Chairman of the PSCG at WCO, the author of this article was elected and appointed Chairman of the PSRG Americas.
It was agreed to focus our efforts in four thematic areas. In each one of them, work has begun to carry out a diagnosis that allows us to know where we are in each country in relation to the development of the topic.
- Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). Ronnie Pimentel, Policy and Industry Analyst of the National Confederation of Brazilian Industry (CNI) was appointed leader of this working group. Work is being done to complete a checklist to ascertain the degree of implementation of the TFA measures in each country of the region.
- Time Release Study. The measurement of the time of release of goods is the focus of a study that uses WCO methodology. Some countries have applied it. We regret that the countries that have implemented the study have not made the results public. Our first recommendation in this subject is that Customs administrations that undertakes the study includes an observer from the private sector. This would provide more transparency and utility for the private sector. This working group is led by Mauro Borsacioli, representative of the transporters of Uruguay. Our goal in the medium term is to be able to compare the efficiency and agility of customs procedures between countries, seeking to encourage the continuous improvement of the time required to release the goods.
- Single window. Magdalena Mendoza, representative of the Center of Customs Agents of Paraguay (CDAP) leads this working group. The first step is to know which countries in the region already have a Single Window, if a window of one country interacts with the window of another country and which is the degree of progress of the single window. We see great variety in the region in all the single windows. A key positive factor is the existence of the Inter-American Network of Foreign Trade Single Windows (Red VUCE). It is hoped that we can coordinate and contribute to Red VUCE’s work through the private sector so that the single windows are increasingly useful and generate agility and transparency of customs processes.
- Regional Authorized Economic Operator (AEO). This working group is led by Patricia Masella, Regional Manager in South America of the Customs and Business Department of Huawey. Huawey is a member of PSCG at the WCO, have foreign trade operations in all the countries of the region, and additionally in all the countries of the region where there is an AEO programme Huawey is already certified as such. Huawey has the experience of how the operational reality of the AEO in each country is, how difficult it is to certify as AEO in each country, and what benefits business has in return. The private sector sees the topic of AEO from a cost-benefit perspective. What is the cost of implementing an authorized economic operator system, what are the requirements, the acquisitions that have to be made, the necessary developments to implement the AEO, what are the times that will take us to become certified, what investment will require, and what benefit will that company have today as authorized economic operator in your country. It is from this understanding that we will be able to support the initiative of Customs of Uruguay to promote a Regional Mutual Recognition Agreement of the AEO. This is a key issue.
At this stage it is important to touch base again with the customs authorities. This will happen next April, in the city of Asunción, Paraguay, at the annual meeting of the CRDGA and the Comalep. We will meet with the Directors of Customs to present the work plan that we have developed, with a view to getting their support, and to advance together in this way that we understand contributes to the development of tools and programs promoted by WCO.
The 4 themes on which we focus are issues of shared interest between the WCO, the public sector and the private sector. Our motto from the private sector is “Customs are all of us”, the customs administrations and the users of the customs and service providers, which is the private sector.
2019 will be a year of hard work and a lot of information gathering to be able to know where we are and where we want to go. The first benefit we are going to have is a clear diagnosis of each point.
The PSRG aims to help the WCO address regional issues by providing expertise, knowledge and thereby contributing to trade.
In April 2019, Paraguay will be the host of the XXII Regional Conference of Directors General of Customs of the Region of the Americas and the Caribbean (CRDGA), the XL Meeting of National Directors of Customs of the Multilateral Agreement on Cooperation and Mutual Assistance of Customs of Latin America, Spain and Portugal (COMALEP) and the Joint Forum OMA-COMALEP-PRIVATE SECTOR.