On 18 October 2022, more than 1,200 participants from 136 countries attended the 2022 WCO Technology Conference and Exhibition in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Some 600 additional delegates joined the event online. During the next three days, under the theme “Driving Customs performance with data and technology in the changing landscape of global trade”, representatives from Customs, international organizations, private sector and academia will discuss matters relating to the various technologies used to manage flows of goods, people and means of conveyance across borders. Participants joining the event in-person will also have the opportunity to test and discover innovative solutions and equipment by visiting the Exhibition running in parallel to the Conference.
The event is being hosted by the Customs Administration of the Netherlands and organized with the support of a number of private sector companies, including the Conference corporate sponsor, Smiths Detection.
Opening remarks were provided by Ms. Nanette van Schelven, Director General of Dutch Customs, Ms. Aukje de Vries, State Secretary for Benefits and Customs in the Ministry of Finance of the Netherlands, and Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General. The three speakers highlighted the responsibilities of Customs in the changing landscape of global trade, and the role of data and technology in accomplishing the important tasks of protecting society, collecting revenue and facilitating legitimate trade, including the growth of cross-border e-commerce. In his opening speech, Dr. Mikuriya congratulated the Conference host on the occasion of the 425th anniversary of the establishment of the Customs Administration of the Netherlands.
During the first day of the Conference, a number of insightful speeches and presentations were delivered. In addition, two round tables and two plenary sessions were held, and the WCO launched its Data Innovation Hub.
The first round table was dedicated to the WCO theme for 2022, namely “Scaling up Customs digital transformation by embracing a data culture and building a data ecosystem” and addressed the importance of high-quality data for Customs risk management, revenue collection and trade facilitation, and the need to foster a robust data culture within in Customs. The Director General of Dutch Customs and the WCO Secretary General shared their insights during the round table, along with Ms. Lilian Nyawanda, Commissioner of Customs and Border Control of the Kenya Revenue Authority and Ms. Suja Rishikesh Mavroidis, Director of Market Access Division of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The second round table explored the changing landscape of global trade and how Customs administrations are responding to it. The Customs perspective was presented by Mr. Gerassimos Thomas, Director-General for Taxation and Customs Union of the European Commission, and Mr. Ian Saunders, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the United States Department of Commerce. The round table benefitted from the insights of two representatives of the private sector – Ms. Manon van Beek, representative of the Netherlands in the EU Wise Persons Group and Mr. John Bescec, representative of the WCO Private Sector Consultative Group (PSCG) and Chair of the Global Customs and Trade Facilitation Commission of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
The third session of the Conference explored the potential of cutting-edge technologies to strengthen border security and enhance Customs processes, while the fourth plenary session discussed how Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can be employed for automated threat detection in the cargo scanning process.
During a special session, the WCO Secretary General launched the WCO Data Innovation Hub, an element of the WCO Data Strategy endorsed by the Council in June 2022. The objective of the Data Innovation Hub is to develop proofs of concept with Members, the private sector and academia, and its first step is a Hackathon prepared jointly with Dutch Customs as part of the Technology Conference. During Day 2 of the Conference, the teams taking part in the Hackathon will work on two challenges – a challenge on data interoperability and a challenge on combining public domain information to enrich Customs data.
The second day of the Conference will host three plenary sessions delving into e-commerce, Single Window and various innovative solutions, as well as a number of keynote speeches and twelve break-out sessions on various technology-related topics, among which data analytics, Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, cloud solutions, inspection technologies, among others. Some of the break-out sessions will explore the standards and tools offered by the WCO in support of Members’ digital transformation journeys; Members’ approaches to research and innovation; the role of data and technology in ensuring the transition of the global economy towards sustainable and greener supply chains; as well as the opportunities that technology can offer to women in trade.
Along with the presentation of the Hackathon outcomes, the last day of the Conference will welcome university students, young professionals and start-up companies who will share their thoughts, questions and achievements. The questions by students and young professionals will be answered by H.E. Ahmed Al Khalifa, Chairperson of the WCO Council in an exciting interview titled “What the young generation wants to know about Customs: Insights into the world of Customs by the WCO Council Chairperson”.