Customs Holds Key to Creating a Better Tomorrow

‘In a world of change and increasing challenges, we know there is no new normal, just new crises’ – Lars Karlsson, Global Head of Trade and Customs Consulting, A.P Møller-Maersk

In celebrating International Customs Day, this year’s WCO theme ‘Nurturing the next generation: promoting a culture of knowledge-sharing and professional pride in Customs’ could hardly be more timely.

Customs competence, capacity and professionalism is needed to enhance and facilitate crossing borders in a world of change and increasing challenges. What we know is that there is no new normal, just new crises. We will see more changes for global trade in the next five years, than we have had in the last fifty.

Supply chains, and the way they are regulated, are getting more complicated. In integrated value chains, products move across borders multiple times during the production cycle.

Trade agreements that reduce the amount of import duties are ever-increasing but the world is moving away from global arrangements in favour of bilateral and regional agreements.

Additional challenges

At the same time, more regulations now go beyond traditional customs tasks, such as duties, taxes, and other controls, including forced labour in the US and EU, and deforestation and carbon emissions in the EU.

These challenges are felt by businesses throughout the world, but can be particularly acute in developing economies, making it more difficult for them to compete in global or regional markets, and putting a brake on economic development.

In this new environment, trade compliance has become the key to predictability, sustainability, and resilience. The last years have seen how supply chain disturbance affects world trade, making it more unpredictable, especially when it comes to border controls. Strategic customs planning will remove many of the delays experienced at borders, while at the same lowering risks and managing liability.

Compliance an opportunity 

Better compliance should not be viewed as a burden. On the contrary, it presents every business with huge opportunities to make real savings and drive efficiencies. Smart use of free trade agreements, inward and outward processing, bonded warehousing, duty drawback and other similar regimes can make a real impact on the bottom line. Proper management of customs data through a customs control tower not only increases compliance, it also manages costs and generates opportunities.

Businesses in developing economies require support in understanding how their supply chains can benefit from such advantages and in optimising their competitiveness.

Catalysing digitalisation 

The Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation is a great vehicle for supporting reforms that simplify international trade. Maersk is proud to work with the Alliance and with our customers in navigating complexities and in driving competitiveness and growth. Digitalisation and the development of an ecosystem of trust are the most important catalysts in meeting the trade challenges of the future, as well as connecting the world to increase prosperity. We will work with the Alliance and other stakeholders to make this happen.

Customs has never been more important than now: it will be even more important tomorrow.