The WCO with the support from the China Customs Cooperation Fund (CCF China) conducted a National Workshop on Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) Programme from 19 to 21 November 2018 in Harare, Zimbabwe.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Happias Kuzvinzwa, Commissioner of Customs underlined the importance of the AEO Programme to secure supply chain and to enhance facilitation of legitimate trade, given that Zimbabwe had submitted a letter of intent to implement the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards in 2005, as well as ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in October 2018. He noted the ongoing Customs reforms in collaboration with other government agencies and private sector stakeholders and thanked the WCO for organizing this timely Workshop.
The WCO has been providing a comprehensive support to Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) with the TFA implementation under the Mercator Programme. This Workshop was aimed at assisting ZIMRA with the development of an AEO Programme intending to enhance supply chain security and facilitation. The Workshop was designed in terms of one of the key recommendations under the “Mercator Implementation Plan For Zimbabwe 2017 – 2020” to support the implementation of Article 7.7 of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA), by strengthening and expanding ZIMRA’s AEO and post-clearance audit programmes to include a broader range of compliant traders.
Experts from the WCO and Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) presented various WCO instruments and tools relating to the SAFE Framework and AEO implementation, elaborated the concept of AEO programme, AEO criteria, requirements and benefits, and its similarities and differences with Article 7.7 of the WTO TFA, and provided international, regional and national experiences and good practices for a harmonized and standardized implementation.
Facilitated by the experts, participants carried out a legal and procedural gap analysis of the ZIMRA’s current AEO programme (that is focused on compliance with 7 certified companies) vis-a-vis the SAFE AEO Programme and developed a set of recommendations to bridge the identified gaps through a time-bound Action Plan 2020. The intended goal is to launch a full-flagged AEO-programme in line with stakeholders’ needs and expectations, which would also help fulfill the obligations Article 7.7 of the TFA.
Through practical exercises, case studies and simulation scenarios, participants were guided through the AEO validation, implementation and post-validation processes.
Over 20 participants from Customs, Cross-border regulatory agencies (e.g., Medicine Control Authority, Port Health, Veterinary Services, Police, and Biotechnology Authority) and the private sector (e.g., National Chamber of Commerce, Freight Forwarders Association, Shipping and Forwarding Agents’ Association) benefited from the workshop.
The participation of other government agencies had been found very useful in engaging them at this stage and clarifying their concerns for enhancing the Programme with additional benefits from those agencies, as well as identifying challenges for the implementation of this project in a timely and coordinated manner. The WCO is committed to providing all necessary support to Zimbabwe, as may be needed, going forward.
There are 79 AEO programmes and 60 Mutual Recognition Arrangements/Agreements (MRAs) that are currently being implemented by WCO Members.