BRUSSELS : On 18 November, at the invitation of the Government of Uzbekistan, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, the Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), spoke at the Samarkand EU-Central Asia Connectivity Conference, held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. He promoted Customs cooperation to strengthen transport connectivity in Central Asia.
The Conference was attended by five Central European countries at the minister of foreign affairs level, and high level officials of EU member states to explore connectivity between the two regions. At the opening session heads of EU institutions talked about digitalization, transport and green initiatives whereas five Central Asian ministers spoke about their priorities including railway corridor and the associated digitalization of Customs procedures. The Conference had three panel sessions, namely digital, transport, and water and energy.
At the transport panel session, Dr. Mikuriya recalled that all five Ministers of Central Asia spoke about railway transit corridor, including the importance of Customs. He maintained that for better connectivity, Customs administrations need to implement international standards, including the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention to support transparency and predictability of supply chains and risk-based approach. He stressed that applying digital technology to border procedures is vital for reducing waiting time and will also facilitate cross-border paperless trade. Secretary General Mikuriya went on to elaborate on the importance of the readiness of Customs IT systems to exchange data by ensuring interoperability with other stakeholders, such as trade and other government agencies, as part of coordinated border management. In this connection, he informed the audience about the WCO’s initiative to promote Customs procedures in railway transportation through the WCO Railway Guidance. Dr. Mikuriya also emphasized the need to invest in Customs equipment but also in human resources.
During the questions and answers session, participants showed great interest in the ongoing Customs modernization in Central Asia.
The panel members suggested a progressive approach for transport connectivity including digitalization with sustainability and enhanced Customs cooperation.
Dr. Mikuriya took the opportunity, together with Mr. Akmalxuja Mavlonov, Chairman of State Customs Committee, to visit the Samarkand International Airport of Uzbekistan and its renewed infrastructure and observe the modern Customs operations in place.