The World Customs Organization (WCO), with the support from the China Customs Cooperation Fund (CCF), recently conducted a Workshop on the SAFE Framework of Standards (SAFE Framework) and Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) Programme in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The workshop provided participants with the WCO perspective to improve their understanding of various tools for the enhanced implementation of the SAFE Framework and an AEO Programme. Over 40 participants from Customs, Cross-Border Regulatory Agencies (e.g., Commerce, Trade Control, Health, Standards, Plant Quarantine, IPR, Civil Aviation, port and airport authorities) and the private sector (e.g., Chamber of Commerce, airlines) attended the Workshop.
In her opening remarks, Mrs. P. S. M. Charles, Director General of Customs, highlighted the importance of the AEO Programme to secure supply chains and to guarantee facilitation of legitimate trade. She stressed the value of the Workshop in creating an environment for collaboration to improve engagements with stakeholders involved and thanked the WCO for organizing this timely Workshop.
The WCO experts presented various WCO instruments and tools relating to the SAFE Framework and AEO implementation and guided participants in developing and designing an AEO Programme in line with stakeholders’ needs and expectations in Sri Lanka. During the workshop, the WCO experts outlined the concepts of the SAFE Framework, AEO requirements and benefits, the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), Mutual Recognition tools, supported by case studies and good practices.
Facilitated by the experts, participants carried out a gap analysis with regard to Sri Lanka’s current implementation status of various Standards of the SAFE Framework and elaborated associated recommendations. A detailed comparison of the ongoing Compliance Trader Programme (Fast Track Documentation Process System – green channel cargo examination facility) and the SAFE AEO Programme was carried out.
In addition, the participants, with the support of experts, participated in practical exercises to come up with an Action Plan to implement an AEO Programme in Sri Lanka.
The participants actively participated in all the discussions and exercises and presented the next steps for the administration following the lessons learned from the workshop.
The WCO workshop proved highly useful in engaging the different stakeholders involved in the AEO Programme and identifying future challenges for the implementation of this project in a timely and effective manner. Being a diagnostic mission, the Workshop has laid down a broad framework and strong foundation for Sri Lankan Customs in terms of an effective implementation of the SAFE Framework and the launch of an AEO Programme, potentially through enhancement of their current compliance programme, in the near future. – WCO