Kazakhstan has made significant progress in the modernization of customs processes – Secretary General of World Customs Organization

BRUSSELS. KAZINFORM. On the eve of his visit to Kazakhstan, the Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO) Kunio Mikuriya kindly agreed to give the interview to our correspondent in Belgium Arnur Rakhymbekov.

Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, this year marks the 30th anniversary of cooperation between the World Customs Organization (WCO) and Kazakhstan. Could you please outline what has been achieved during this time, and which prospects are planned for the future?

Indeed, this is a special year for the Republic of Kazakhstan – the 30th anniversary of Independence. It is also a significant date of cooperation between the World Customs Organization and Kazakhstan.

When Kazakhstan joined the WCO, the country tried to implement WCO standards and acceded to some of WCO conventions to ensure connectivity at the borders. Kazakhstan is committed to establishing a trade system in line with international standards.

In a number of important areas, not only WCO instruments, but also in general international standards, you have been implementing those obligations and standards. We worked together with Kazakhstan to implement WTO agreements.

Kazakhstan also set your border procedures in line with international standards. Your country does further steps in enhancing regional cooperation – connecting state through the movements of goods and people at the borders. Therefore you have facilitated regional integration in Central Asia.

Kazakhstan hosted the first WCO regional training center in Central Asia. This is a good tool to connect to networks beyond your borders connecting with neighbouring countries and beyond those, to European countries.

In terms of incorporating international programs, you have implemented the Container Control Programme which is program between WCO and UNODC. And in that way, it is not only international standards, but in practice you try to incorporate many best practices from around the world.

In terms of your participation in WCO, you are very proactive and have participated in our governance structure as a member of our finance committee, as a member of our policy commission. Great that you have raised your voice, not only for your country, but on behalf of your region.

Kazakhstan has made significant progress in the modernization of customs processes. Especially by achieving high level of digitalization of export-import procedures through Astana-1 IT systems and Single Window implementation.

I can say that you have achieved tremendous progress. At the same time, the world is changing and the trade landscape continues to change. So we need to work together with Kazakhstan customs to make adaptation and progress in this area.

Being the largest landlocked country in the world, Kazakhstan pays a great attention to the enhancement of transit potential. The WCO is closely working with Kazakhstan and other countries to simplify and harmonize transit procedures. What results have been achieved so far in this direction and what remains to be done?

When it comes to transit, I immediately think about Kazakhstan, because of the 2003 Ministerial Meeting for Landlocked countries in Astana that I participated to contribute in the transit area. As a result the Astana declaration was adopted together with the Astana Program of Action which had been the guiding principle for addressing the challenges of the landlocked countries until followed by its successor, the Vienna Plan of Action 2014-24. Still, you are the leader in landlocked countries. Indeed, Kazakhstan is currently chair of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDC). Therefore, many countries are looking at Kazakhstan as a leader and model for landlocked countries.

Your country is strategically located, connecting on the Western side Turkey, Mediterranean and Europe and on the Eastern side, China and other East Asian countries. But also, on the Southern side, you are in a position to connect to Southern Asia. You are at the crossroads of those trading routes.

This is why you have made such efforts in making the transit more efficient and connected to other countries. I visited several of your border posts in 2019 including Nur Joly road checkpoint on the Kazakhstan-China borders in Almaty region and I was very impressed with its infrastructure and smooth flow of goods using technology. I thought that this could be a very good model in Central Asia to be duplicated.

And of course you are connected by railway as well, another area where I saw your leadership position. We have developed our guidance documents that include Kazakhstan’s best practices and especially it's thanks to Kazakhstan’s experience that we have developed the Guidelines on Railway Transit.

As a result of your efforts, the time for the clearance of border clearance procedures has been drastically reduced. This is really convincing of how your investment is returning profit. Customs procedures at the transit have been simplified and the capacity has been widened more than 5 times. This is maximum simplification for the sake of business.

Moreover, you are working with your neighbouring countries, for example, with Uzbekistan to create a centre for international trade and economic cooperation in Central Asia. This center is intended to become a major industrial, trade and logistics platform for the implementation of joint investment projects of the two countries.

Modernised checkpoints are really good and in my upcoming visit I intend to see some of the new programs there.

Also, this year, you have come up with a comprehensive action plan upon controlling the illicit trade at the borders.

We will continue working with you to see how transit can become a facilitator for economic competitiveness.

From the WCO side, we are ready to collaborate to ensure the implementation of the international transit simplifications measures.

Our world is still facing the global health crisis. What measures have been taken by the WCO and Kazakhstan Customs to ensure the supply chain continuity, recover international trade and reduce consequences of the pandemic in the country and the region in general?

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has shown us all the need for a prompt and joint response to these threats.

At the beginning of the pandemic, borders were closed to people, but at the same time goods had to pass through the borders, including medicines, medical supplies and other necessary things. The WCO has developed a list of basic medical products for accelerated passage across borders.

It is important that customs administrations continue to provide assistance not only to humanitarian aid goods, but also to goods in general, in order to minimize the overall impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on our economy and society.

A special section dedicated to the fight against COVID-19 has been created on the WCO website. In particular, our experts collect information from the WCO member countries about what is being done in the fight against the pandemic, the national experience of the organization's members.

Kazakhstan has shown effective measures in the fight against coronavirus. In particular, Kazakhstan has created a national contact point that can be contacted at any time to facilitate cross-border movement. We have published this important information on a dedicated WCO web page for other Members of the Organization.

For its part, the WCO began to pay more attention to interaction with other government agencies, including in the field of transport. To facilitate coordination at the borders at the national level, we enhanced cooperation with other international public and private organizations and issued joint statements and letters with the World Trade Organization, the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Civil Aviation Organization and International Road Transport Union to name a few.

Thus, we are trying to simplify and digitalize the customs procedures towards paperless trade and contactless clearance processes to mitigate the ill effects of the global pandemic.

Of course, during the crisis there is a need to provide significant benefits to small and medium-sized businesses. And we recommended that the authorities of the WCO countries pay attention to this category of entrepreneurs during the pandemic.

In the customs and revenue spheres, Kazakhstan implemented significant concessions for small and medium-sized enterprises during the acute crisis.

In particular, government has taken measures in the form of exemption and reduction of taxes for small and medium-sized enterprises. Individual customs controls at the border have been simplified to ensure continuity of the supply chain and uninterrupted trade during the pandemic. This is a positive example of Kazakhstan in the fight against the pandemic.

In addition, Kazakhstan has taken operational measures in the field of regional cooperation. In particular, within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), together with other EAEU member states, several decisions were made to exempt the list of essential and essential goods, medicines, medical products and equipment for import from customs tariffs.

In June 2021, Member States adopted «WCO Environmental Scan-2021» which highlights global environment and trends in international trade and presents main opportunities and challenges for WCO and its Member States. Would you please briefly indicate key aspects of this project?

We have adopted methodology of PESTLE: Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental.

From political point of view, customs has much to offer to a state, so you need to raise your profile. All transport data is coming through customs. And by making use of huge volume of data that Customs receive, we can provide valuable advice to our governments and in that way, we should be able to raise our profile as trusted adviser to government. Of course, communication is key to achieve this goal.

In the economic area, we are contributing to enhancing economic competitiveness of states by facilitating trade. And for that we can ensure connectivity at the borders by nurturing trust with economic operators to work together to ensure we contribute to economic development.

At the same time, we have to protect the society from the threats of illicit trade. And, when it comes to technology, digitalization is the key. COVID-19 is giving an indication of what to expect from the future, and we should be prepared for the future as there would be similar natural and human made disasters in the future. So we need to digitalise, move towards paperless trade and contactless processes. In this context, technology can help the much needed collaboration with other government agencies – IT systems connected to one another, supported by interoperability between IT systems to achieve single window or transit system.

From a legal perspective, you have to think about what kind of international standards are being developed and how to implement them. At the same time, it would be necessary to take into account domestic or national requirements, such as for data protection or cyber security, so that legal thinking is necessary.

Finally, the environment. The world is facing the challenge for climate change and other environmental areas. We respond to these kinds of emerging risks because customs can contribute to its solutions through border control and tracing and tracking of goods. We need to decouple our economic development from CO2 emissions and other climate challenges.

Thank you for interview.

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