OCEANIA CUSTOMS ORGANISATION

admin's picture

COMMUNIQUÉ

Brisbane, Australia

Koror, Palau March 7, 2001

The Government of the Republic of Palau and the Palau Division of Customs hosted the 3rd Annual Conference of the Oceania Customs Organisation (OCO) of Customs Heads March 3-7, 2001. The Honourable Mr. Elbuchel Sadang, Minister of Administration, chaired the meeting.

This Conference was attended by twenty of the twenty-three member administrations.

There were thirty-one delegates from American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, The Fiji Islands, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis & Futuna.

Two staff from the OCO Secretariat attended the Conference along with thirteen invited observers from the World Customs Organisation (WCO), the U.S. Customs Service (USCS), the Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council (CCLEC), UNCTAD, the Pacific Immigration Directors Conference (PIDC), the South Pacific Chiefs of Police Conference (SPCPC), the East Timor Border Service and Digital Port Control (DPC).

The President of the Republic of Palau, His Excellency Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. warmly welcomed delegates and observers to Palau and to the Conference.

In his opening address the President highlighted the need for regional cooperation and support between OCO members. The President recognized developments, facilitated by OCO members, which countered increasing regional risks and saw these as being important for the protection of our region’s children. It was very pleasing that the President acknowledged the work of the OCO Secretariat and the delivery of the OCO Strategic Plan / Work Plan.

The WCO Secretary General Mr. Michel Danet attended the Conference and in his address to the Conference he identified the importance of integrity, training and the exchange of ideas as being critical to the effectiveness of Customs administrations.

The Hong Kong, China Commissioner of Customs and Excise Mr. John Tsang also attended the Conference in his capacity as the WCO Vice-Chairman for the Asia Pacific Region. The attendance of two senior WCO representatives was much appreciated by the OCO members.

The key issues discussed and progressed by OCO 2001 included:

OCO Strategic Plan and Annual Work Plan

Presentations and reports on the focus areas of the 2000 - 2002 OCO Strategic Plan / Work Plan were received at the Conference. The format of the Conference provided for tasks to be reviewed for inclusion in the 2001-2003 OCO Strategic Plan / Work Plan.

The conference members agreed to continue to provide input to all task areas of the OCO Strategic Plan and Annual Work Plan.

Key Focus Area : Trade Facilitation / Revenue Collection

The OCO Regional Harmonisation Committee report highlighted strategies for standardisation / harmonisation which focus on uniformity and consistency of electronic systems and appropriate legislation. The Conference noted the outcomes of the Committee report and approved the Committee to continue working within the guidelines of the Harmonized System of Tariff Nomenclature [HS] and the Kyoto Convention to identify future Customs processes that will guide reform and modernisation for OCO members. The Conference noted that both the HS and Kyoto Convention provided excellent guides for Customs modernisation.

UNCTAD presented a Modernisation and Automation Customs Toolkit (MACT), which was designed as a diagnostic tool for undertaking the evaluation of Customs reform activities.

It was also agreed to review the outcomes of a meeting to be hosted by UNCTAD and the Forum Secretariat to ensure that trade facilitation and revenue issues were considered and to identify how these might impact on OCO members.

Following a discussion on the Pacific Regional Trade Agreement (PARTA) the Conference agreed that Customs administrations’ early involvement in discussions on PARTA was absolutely crucial for ensuring that a Customs perspective was included in possible resolutions.

Key Focus Area : Law Enforcement

The OCO CAPERS / RCS 2000 Committee report and presentations from representatives of the USCS, CCLEC and DPC resulted in OCO members agreeing to maintain involvement in the current CAPERS pilot as well as completing the technical requirements survey to enable the Committee to make progress in seeking out other technical solutions. The OCO Strategic Plan / Work Plan for 2001 – 2003 set tasks to ensure that technical requirements are fully reviewed. The Conference noted that this widened the Committee scope beyond the functionality of CAPERS and RCS 2000 to a more comprehensive overview of law enforcement technical requirements.

The Conference was presented with the 4th and 5th Customs Regional Intelligence Network (CRIN) Bulletins. The Conference agreed to continue to commit to CRIN by providing information on a monthly basis on the current commodity topics and agreed to assist in the further development of the bulletin.

Ever increasing threats posed to member countries through illegal activities were highlighted throughout the Conference during discussions on Law Enforcement issues. Issues discussed included drug trafficking [particularly the growing methamphetamine problem in Micronesia], money laundering, tobacco and alcohol smuggling, CITES (endangered species) smuggling and intellectual property rights infringements. Strategic risks for the region were highlighted in the OCO Strategic Awareness Briefing Report.

The Conference agreed to work toward greater cooperation and information sharing at national and regional levels. In support of this, the OCO is working with the PIDC and SPCPC to develop a model MOU. The Conference also noted with interest that a trial of the Combined Law Agency Group concept would shortly commence with Customs and Police agencies in Kiribati and Samoa.

Key Focus Area : Human Resource Development

The OCO Integrity Committee report identified that the effectiveness of OCO integrity initiatives depended on the effort and commitment of OCO members. Members agreed to focus attention on integrity self assessment and action plans as well as developing appropriate codes of conduct for their administrations. The Conference noted that this was an important step in communicating our collective intolerance to breaches of integrity.

The Conference noted the positive comments on the OCO integrity program expressed by Forum Leaders when they met in Kiribati in late 2000. OCO is sharing its experience on this matter with other regional groups.

Discussions took place on the demands and effectiveness of the training and technical assistance being delivered in the region. It was agreed that, following on from tasks completed in 2000, the OCO would work towards a more coordinated approach to technical assistance to meet the needs of all members.

Key Focus Area : Communication / Representation

The OCO Secretariat delivered an outline of its work including reporting (OCO newsletter, briefing material, etc) and communication (OCO Internet web site, a Fact Sheet, contact lists,).

It was noted that the continuing development of OCO and in particular the completion of the OCO Strategic Plan / Work Plan assisted with raising the profile of OCO. This assisted member administrations to further promote themselves to governments, industry and communities and also to attend and actively participate in other regional forums.

Closing

The Conference formally adopted the OCO Strategic Plan / Work Plan for 2001 – 2003.

The Conference accepted Wallis and Futuna’s confirmation of its offer to host the next OCO Annual Conference in 2002. The OCO also accepted the Cook Islands offer to host the meeting in 2003 and noted that in the event that this was not possible Vanuatu and Fiji would be other options. It was further noted that the Solomon Islands hoped to host the Conference in 2004.

Delegates expressed their gratitude to the Government of the Republic of Palau and the staff at the Palau Division of Customs, who had all been instrumental in making this a most successful and enjoyable week.

For additional information, contact John Marks, Head of Secretariat, OCO Secretariat, Brisbane, Australia at Tel: (617) 3835 3464; Fax (617) 3835 3466; johnmarks@ocosec.com" target="_blank">E-mail:johnmarks@ocosec.com 

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment