Pacific customs bodies agree to collaborate

Customs organisations in the region, which are facing similar challenges connected to the COVID-19 pandemic, have agreed to work together and collaborate.

The Oceania Customs Organisation [O.C.O.] Secretariat, in a media release following the conclusion of the O.C.O. Heads Annual Conference on October 20, stated that they continue to be hit by losses in revenue collection for the governments due to border closure.

In addition to generating revenue for their governments, customs administrations are increasingly being presented with other challenges such as the rise of illicit drugs, contraband goods and having to crew quarantine centers.

The virtual conference was attended by 19 heads of customs administrations from member Governments, or their respective nominees, from Australia, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Guam, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Timor Leste. New Caledonia represented French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna as members whereas American Samoa and Kiribati were not able to attend.

The O.C.O Chairman, Xavier Mitchell, stated that COVID-19 forcefully teaches the region to change its course and ways rapidly and immediately.

He further explained that it has caused major impacts on economies and customs in the Pacific region. However, it is still critical that customs organisations continue to facilitate trade and earn revenue that is needed now more than ever for regional governments.

According to the media release, recognising that their challenges are similar, but solutions cannot be "one size fits all" customs leaders decided at the meeting that collaborations with each other and with key agencies was vital.

Mr. Mitchell further stated that the region needs to continue to strengthen collective actions to effectively manage the regional security environment.

"Not only do nations have to protect themselves from COVID-19, there are emerging threats within the Customs environment such as the trade of counterfeit goods, illicit financial flows, trafficking of people, drugs and weapons, and money laundering that require strong focus.

The O.C.O Annual Conference which was originally scheduled to take place in the Cook Islands was held virtually after it was cancelled in July due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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