On 30 June 2007, the Council of the World Customs Organization (WCO) decided to accept the request of the European Union to join the WCO as of 1st July 2007. This decision grants to the European Union rights and obligations on an interim basis akin to those enjoyed by WCO Members. Full accession will be possible once an amendment to the Convention establishing a Customs Co-operation Council, allowing economic and customs unions to join is ratified by the 172 current Members of the organisation.
The WCO plays an important role in promoting international customs co-operation and addressing new challenges for customs and trade. It is deeply involved in designing and implementing policies worldwide that integrate measures, which help ensure supply chain security, combat counterfeiting, promote trade and development, as well as guarantee efficient collection of customs revenues. Membership of the WCO highlights and confirms the central role and competence of the EU in international discussions on customs issues including customs reform. EU involvement in the WCO will focus on the full spectrum of customs issues, in particular the following broad areas:
- Nomenclature and classification in the framework of the Harmonised system;
- Origin of goods;
- Customs value;
- Simplification and harmonisation of customs procedures and trade facilitation;
- Development of supply chain security standards;
- Development of IPR enforcement standards;
- Capacity building for customs modernisation and reforms, including in the context of development cooperation;
- Mutual Administrative Assistance for the prevention, investigation and repression of customs offences.
The EU is a contracting party to several WCO Conventions, and contributes to the work of this organisation, including by ensuring presence and coordination with the Member States in defining and representing EU positions in the relevant bodies managing these conventions.
The European Union held the Vice-Chairmanship of the World Customs Organisation's Europe region for two years from July 1st 2014 to July 16th 2016.