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Regional Workshop on Implications of E-Commerce on Customs for the WCO MENA Region

The WCO with the support from Saudi Customs organized a ‘Regional Workshop on Implications of E-Commerce on Customs’ for the North of Africa, Near and Middle East (MENA) region from 16 to 19 November in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 30 Customs delegates from Egypt, Jordon, Lebanon, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, Palestine and Saudi Arabia as well as representatives from the Arab League, RILO Middle East and Saudi Post participated in the workshop.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Hamad Al Qasoumi, Deputy Director General of Saudi Customs, highlighted the significance of growing cross-border e-commerce and the need for Customs administrations to adequately prepare to address issues stemming therefrom. He noted that the regional workshop on this topic was a very timely initiative to that end.

WCO experts provided detailed information and explanations on international and regional developments within the MENA region, including opportunities and challenges in the area of cross-border e-commerce related to facilitation and control, and presented related WCO tools and instruments, case studies and ongoing work. The Workshop reflected on several current and emerging challenges emanating from e-commerce and explored potential solutions, wherein participants also shared their national experiences, initiatives and future thoughts.

Being the first of its kind in the region (which is witnessing a huge growth in e-commerce), the workshop was very well received by participants and raised a lot of interest and active discussions. Participants acquired an enhanced understanding on cross-border e-commerce and its implications on Customs.

The workshop also enabled the participants in developing a broad draft action plan along with a set of recommendations as potential way forward, which inter alia included adoption of a risk-based approach based on advance electronic data (including from post); developing IT and data analytics capabilities, enhanced coordination with partner government agencies and active engagement with other stakeholders involved in the e-commerce supply chain to explore opportunities for the exchange of data.

Additionally, the workshop provided participants with a good opportunity to establish networks with other Customs administration of the region, and to engage in discussions on how they could work together alongside with other relevant stakeholders to achieve an effective coordination in controlling and facilitating growing cross-border e-commerce.

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