At its recent annual session the World Customs Organization Council adopted a framework of standards on cross-border e-commerce designed to help WCO members develop e-commerce strategic and operational frameworks in cooperation with stakeholders. The WCO states that this framework will also be useful for members seeking to enhance existing frameworks to effectively meet the requirements of new and evolving business models.

Cross-border e-commerce is characterized by online initiation, cross-border transaction or shipment, physical goods, and destined to consumers (commercial and non-commercial). It offers a significant opportunity for the economic growth and competitiveness of nations by providing new growth engines, developing new trade modes, driving new consumption trends, and creating new jobs. On the other hand, the exponential growth of e-commerce, particularly the emergence of new trade patterns and the increased role of consumers in individual transactions, presents challenges to governments and businesses in terms of trade facilitation, safety and security, and accurate and efficient collection of duties and taxes.

The WCO has been active in working to develop a harmonized approach to e-commerce. In December 2017 the group’s Policy Commission adopted a resolution outlining specific principles and encouraging customs administrations to apply them. Earlier this year the WCO Working Group on E-Commerce held a preliminary discussion on data elements needed for effective risk management and speedy clearance of e-commerce shipments and approved an updated version of the Immediate Release Guidelines, which have been adapted to support the expeditious release and clearance of e-commerce shipments and parcels.

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