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10 December

On 15 November, CLECAT held its 2018 Freight Forwarders’ Forum, entitled ‘Customs, Trade and Skills – What’s the deal?’ at the World Customs Organization (WCO) in Brussels. This year’s Forum highlighted the importance of connecting trade, customs and skills across the EU and address challenges freight forwarders, customs agents and others in the logistics supply chain are facing. The Forum gathered more than 130 industry experts, policy makers and stakeholders.

The morning part of the event entitled ‘factors changing the customs profession’ addressed in three sessions the challenges for the future of the customs profession, education in customs and trade compliance and how to measure and provide proof of customs competence.

 One of the key challenges facing the public and private sectors is the recruitment and education of a sufficient number of people in the area of customs. For Brexit alone, thousands of new customs and trade professionals need to be employed. Speakers noted that they will have to be educated and trained to higher standards than before and with new skills. Younger people also have a different attitude towards their jobs and have different demands from their employers. The forum concluded that it remains extremely important to attract the younger generations to the customs profession.

In a panel on the ways and means to measure and provide proof of customs competence, the EU Competency Framework was presented by the European Commission and various Customs representatives gave their national perspectives. Reference was also made to the CEN Standard of Customs Competency for Customs Representatives which was supported by CLECAT in an effort to promote professionalism, skills and knowledge in the customs representation within the EU.

The afternoon part of the FFF2018 provided a broad view of how politics and populism are influencing trade and customs by discussing various subjects like Trade Wars, Brexit, Export Controls and Sanctions. Steve Parker, President of CLECAT, in reflecting on his experience on customs, referred to the changing customs landscape rhetorically as the ghosts of customs past, present and future. He noted that while the past has been defined mostly by efforts directed towards the simplification of customs procedures, at present a significant change, characterised mostly by growing protectionist tendencies can be observed.

In her keynote-speech, Ana Hinojosa, Director of Compliance and Facilitation at the World Customs Organization (WCO), emphasised that technology will be a critical aspect of our future. In that regard, she noted that as technology knows no physical borders, new ideas of where a border starts and where it ends are emerging. Furthermore, she presented the implications which technology has on trade, environment, security and migration.

The European Commission gave insight into the progress made on the implementation of the EU Advance Cargo Information System (ICS2 & PLACI). This was followed by explanations on the impact this will have on the supply chain, how the industry needs to prepare for it, as well as its relation to other global security initiatives.

The FFF2018 concluded with a panel session on eCommerce and low value consignments, which has grown exponentially in recent years and has become an integral part of trade and logistics. The panel presented the WCO e-Commerce Framework, as well as the developments at EU and national level, and the possibilities e-Commerce provides for freight forwarders and customs brokers.

The Freight Forwarders Forum 2018 also celebrated CLECAT’s sixtieth anniversary. From an association of 5 Members in 1958, CLECAT has expanded to become the largest organisation of its kind in Europe, with 25 members in Europe and truly multimodal. A summary of the debates and the presentations will be published shortly on CLECAT’S website.