Rapid changes in global trade

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Rapid changes in global trade

Lim Jae-hyeon
The author is the commissioner of the Korea Customs Service.
The global trade environment is undergoing rapid changes amid health crisis posed by Covid-19 pandemic, supply chain realignment, individual-based e-commerce, surge of various new innovations across industries, and strengthened environment-related policies.
The changing times call for new role and function of customs authorities responsible for customs clearance of exports and imports, collecting revenue and control of unlawful trade practices. New challenges include coming up with new regulations in response to the fast expansion of digital trade, conflicts related to HS classification as new products are constantly released, increased complexities involving smuggling and other cross-border crimes, and environmental issues including carbon emission issues.
Since customs administration deals with trade with other nations, the role of international organization is important for cooperation and coordination among different countries. The World Customs Organization (WCO) based in Belgium upholds the responsibility. The WCO is membered by 184 countries, the largest international body after the United Nations with 193 members, wielding influence over customs governance and trading companies by setting the guidelines on international customs conventions, HS classification and customs valuation, exchange in customs information and modernization in customs clearance.
The WCO has been making various efforts to proactively respond to the changes in global trade environment. Digitalization to employ digital and IT system to shift to electronic procedures in customs affairs, collect and safeguard customs duties, control the flow of goods, and deal with cross-border crimes is one major ongoing project. Since the work costs mammoth budget and technology, member countries must provide aggressive support and cooperation for the transition.
The Korea Customs Service has been offering aggressive human, physical, and technology support to back WCO. It has been dispatching experts in various fields and provided 20.6 billion won ($16 million) in Customs Cooperation Fund from 2011.
The annual fund was raised to 3 billion won from 2 billion in 2020. KCS signed an agreement to increase Language Fund in March to support translations in the languages of member countries to draw more active policy participation from member countries.
KCS also has been backing WCO’s digital initiative by developing techniques for AI data analysis to study the customs and trade data, and using virtual reality technologies for creating online and in-person training programs.
The WCO will elect the next five-year term the Deputy Secretary General in June. The deputy secretary general sets the key WCO agendas together with Secretary General and working
bodies. The new deputy secretary general must have clear understanding of the changes in the global trade environment to come up with initiatives in advancing customs administration.
Kang Taeil, WCO’s Director of Capacity Building directorate, is bidding for the secretary general. Kang is a veteran in customs administration, having overseen customs clearance, valuation, digitalization, and international cooperation at the Korean Customs Service. If he is selected to the chief of WCO, he would be able to contribute to advancing customs administration of member countries and easing the tariff and non-tariff trade barriers as well as creating safer and smoother environment for global trade.
International customs administration must advance in line with the changes in the international trade environment. The Korean Customs Service will back the WCO in its pivotal role during the critical inflection period and assist the development of member countries. 
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