Visiting the World Trade Forum @ Grindelwald

The National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCR Trade Regulation) is coming to an end after twelve years of work funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). During all of these year, the NCCR has been giving policy recommendations based on the disciplines of law, economics and political science in six different areas: WP1 Trade Governance, WP2 New Preferentialism in Trade, WP3 Innovation and Competitiveness in Trade Governance, WP4 Trade and the Diffusion of Migration Law, Policy and Economics, WP5 Trade and Climate Change and WP6 Impact Assessment in International Trade Regulation.

In light of the end of the World Trade Institute’s NCCR program, researchers from each of the six work packages planned events around the world as part of the NCCR Global Series on Trade Regulation, these global series culminated with the final NCCR ‘summit’, which took place during the annual the World Trade Forum Conference at the Sunstar Hotel in Grindelwald, 6-7 October 2017.

The 2017 World Trade theme was “’Trade Policy in Turbulent Times”. This topic seemed to be appropriate with the current economic and political landscape painted where forced migration, rising populism and opposition to globalisation are the main characters.

During this final event, I had the pleasure to see again familiar faces that I haven’t seen for quite some time but also, I had the opportunity to meet legal scholars, economists, political scientists and practitioners that have been examining how the world trading system have been functioning over the last decade and the way trade impacts on areas including climate change, migration, jobs etc.

During the opening conference, Prof. Elsig (Professor of International Relations and Deputy Managing Director of the World Trade Institute (WTI) of the University of Bern) remarked how much the world had changed since the NCCR project was launched in 2005. In 12 years, there has been a proliferation of trade agreements with their own particular rules which causes more and more fragmentation and uncertainty to the multilateral system. Moreover, there has been recently an increase of scepticism in the western world about their traditional model of globalization and the role it has played in job losses. However, this scepticism has been contrasted with the strong support of free market expressed by the President of China, a well know a communist country.

Photo credits: World Trade Institute

Despite the proliferation of preferential trade agreements, the speakers agreed that this tendency will not slow down and will play a crucial role in a world marked by global value chains. However, they also indicated that this is a wakeup call for the World Trade Organization to evolve the multilateral trade agreement and take into account the rapid change in technology. For example, ecommerce is growing 4 times faster than GDP, meaning that its necessary to create regulatory framework for this phenomenon.

Trade policy “is still alive and kicking” the speakers said, but, there are still many things to improve such as regulatory incoherence in services and goods. Lack of coherence on regulation can deeply affect the supply chain, therefore, countries still have much more work to do as well as the WTO.

Furthermore, many presenters agreed that structural changes (improvement of technology and digitalization of work) are the cause of job losses and not trade.  Trade is usually blamed because is the easiest thing to do but in reality, digital transformation is more disruptive than trade. Maria Asenius of the European Commission indicated that trade wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t beneficial for both the parties involved, in fact, she indicated that trade has been good for wealth and job creation, and “the most natural thing you can do with your clothes on”.


CBRA Blog on 31.10.2017, by Ms. Susana Wong

DOTCOM Training event in Rome Sep.2017

The first DOTCOM training event took place in the heart Rome on 26-29 September 2017. It was attended by a group of about thirty trainees – mostly government officials engaged in the fight against illegal waste trade from customs, environment, port, police, and prosecution authorities across Europe and West Africa. The remaining group comprised three main instructors; members of DOTCOM partner organisations, including UNU, Germany; Tecoms, Italy; PENAf, Ghana; and myself from CBRA. The members from UNU and Tecoms supported the basic training programme by assuming the role of trainers for a few sessions.

The keynote address was delivered by Mr Renato Nitti from the Public Prosecution Office in Bari, Italy. He referred to the dual objective of the training event: i) facilitate a shared understanding of the problem and to develop a common language and ii) identify and exchange good practices. He also highlighted the main challenges associated with port inspections and the many complexities surrounding the green, amber and red channel system in ports.

The training session was divided into nine modules, namely:

  • Legislative Landscape,
  • Problematic Waste Streams.
  • Smarter Inspections and Next Generation Compliance,
  • Inspections and Detection,
  • Investigation,
  • Intelligence,
  • Dealing with Illegal Shipments,
  • Prosecution, and
  • Sentencing.

The legal framework governing waste shipments is the Basel Convention and the Waste Framework Directive. Taking these as the legal basis, greater clarity was provided on what exactly constitutes waste by nailing down the key concepts and definitions of specific waste categories that serve as examples of problematic waste streams – for example refrigerants, end of life vehicles, end of life vessels, waste tyres, waste plastics, and waste paper. Concrete directions were provided for waste classification; distinction between hazardous and non-hazardous waste; and the legality of exportation of certain waste categories to OECD and specific non-OECD countries.

The presentation of smarter investigations and next generation compliance provided advanced information on new tools and technologies for surveillance, monitoring and detection. Risk assessment and targeted waste shipment inspection formed the central part of the discussion.

The module on Inspection and Detection focused on three phases: risk identification, risk analysis and evaluation, and prioritisation. Working with risk profiling and risk indicators were recommended. Some risk indicators can be determined from the description of the goods; the packaging style and labelling; and the detection of broken material, rupture, perforation, leakage, etc. Multi-agency response is considered a vital support in the detection of illegal shipments.

The aim of the Investigation module was to provide practical knowledge on investigations of illicit waste trade, and a greater understanding of the different types of investigations for waste shipments and management. Discussions centred on the investigative strategies, allocation of resources, and the different phases of both upstream and downstream investigations.  A few presentations shed light on new methods of data collection, analytical tools for investigation, phone data analysis, surveillance, wiretapping, and tracking devices. A new communications intelligence system called COMINT is a promising tool to help understand the ramifications of organised crime groups. Information is gathered from the communications of individuals, including telephone conversations, text messages and various types of online interactions.

Intelligence is the result of the evaluation of the relevant information available. This main subject of this module was strategic and operational intelligence to support waste enforcement. International information sharing tools, including the Interpol 24/7 system, the Europol Information system, WCO CENCOMM and WCO ENVIRONET were discussed. A few fictive cases were presented on how to deal with illegal shipments. As an important detail, strict adherence to safety measures is recommended during port inspections.

The session on prosecution relied on real-life cases in the UK to underline some challenges involved and practical ways to address those challenges. A moot court for a hypothetical legal case was held as an illustrative example.

The concluding module on sentencing drew attention to several ambiguities of the Basel Convention and the main difficulties associated with conviction and sentencing. Convictions appear to be very limited compared to the number of prosecutions. Fines are not dissuasive and prison sentences are often not effective. Targeting the illegal wealth obtained through dissuasive penalties in lieu of small fines and short prison sentences is considered a more effective approach. A useful tactic is to look at other violations connected with waste crime, e.g. fraud, forgery, money laundering, property damage, which would provide opportunities for stronger punishments.

Each module was accompanied by a set of group exercises related to case studies to reinforce practical knowledge. Participants were advised to download the mobile waste application called WATCH-IT that was jointly developed by the UN Environment, GRID-Arendal and DOTCOM Waste. It is a useful tool to assist law enforcement officers during their inspections of waste shipments, to guide them through complex decision-making processes, while assessing the legality of shipments. Participants received instructions on how to navigate through this app and flesh out relevant information.

To complement the basic training package, participants shared their personal experiences on particularly complicated cases. A Nigerian officer presented a real-life case of WEEE exportation to Nigeria that was mis-declared as used goods. A representative from the German environmental agency described a case of illegal export of mercury from Germany via Switzerland. An officer from the Waterways Police of Hamburg spoke about a complicated case of an end-of-life vehicle that shed light on the challenges of waste identification.  Guest speakers from Italy also made presentations of cases of cross-border waste trafficking in Naples – containers carrying radioactive waste, mercury and other toxic waste that pointed out the loopholes in national and EU legislation, and the absence of information exchange between countries. These were not isolated cases but linked with organisations managing illegal shipments, underpinning the importance of investigating the entire supply chain.

The icing on the cake was the visit to the Federal Customs Agency of Italy and the historical Port of Civita Vecchia that was founded during the Roman Empire period. At the customs office, we had the opportunity to get a close look at the AIDA information system that controls complex customs operations and automates the submission of declarations in an integrated manner. It is highly useful for the monitoring, risk analysis and profiling of maritime traffic. At the port, a large container holding non-functional electronic goods was displayed. The seized shipment had been destined for Benin and has remained there for two years.

The four-day long multi-disciplinary training session offered theoretical and practical knowledge of effective investigative strategies and informed decision making for waste crimes along the EU – West Africa route. Additionally, it served as a forum for a systematic exchange of ideas and best practices to enforce illicit management and illegal trade in waste. So far, the destination countries have been stronger on the enforcement side by presenting impressive intervention rates. Therefore, more effective enforcement from the origin countries is urgently required to curb this trans-national crime.


CBRA Blog on 29.10.2017 by Dr. Sangeeta Mohanty.


PS. Please sign up to the final conference of DOTCOM Waste, in Brussels, 23.11.2017


PRECISE kick-off meeting @ Spiez!

CBRA has officially started the PRECISE project with a kick-off meeting in Spiez, Switzerland. The team members were gathered in Spiez during 11-12 of September to discuss the main steps and actions that need be taken to accomplish PRECISE´s objectives.


PRECISE stands for “Precursors of Illicit Cigarette Trade” and it is a project funded by PMI Impact program ( For the duration of 20 months, CBRA team will be studying alternative ways to disrupt illicit tobacco production by complicating sourcing of tobacco precursors. In other words, the project will design a new system for monitoring and controlling trade and logistics in tobacco precursors.

According to a recent KPMG study, Illicit tobacco trade account for up to 10.4% of the global cigarette market; and, more than 53 billion cigarettes in the EU alone. Many initiatives have been taken to tackle the contraband and counterfeit of cigarettes from the point of view of production, distribution and sales of cigarettes; while only little has been done to control and monitor the trade of cigarette precursors, i.e. all raw materials, machinery and competent work force needed in the process of manufacturing the cigarettes. Specific examples of precursors include: raw tobacco, acetate tow for filters, special rolling paper, and special machinery.

PRECISE aims to fill the “precursor gap” by designing a new system for monitoring and controlling trade in cigarette precursors and by producing a roadmap for implementing this system. By addressing (shady or illicit) sourcing of tobacco precursors, PRECISE opens a new battlefront in the combat against illicit whites, counterfeit cigarettes as well as under-reporting and under-declaration of genuine tobacco products. Field investigations will be carried out in select Asian and European countries that play a significant role in illicit tobacco production and / or tobacco precursor trade and transit. Field investigators may find evidence on additional illegal activities such as fraud, corruption, money laundering, terrorism financing, among other possible criminal activities, beyond the illicit tobacco trade.

If you have information that could be valuable for our research, please feel free to contact us (cbra at )!


CBRA Blog on 30.9.2017 by Ms. Susana Wong


More information:

Customs Officers – How unique are they!?

While sitting (and working) at the lobby of Hotel Russelior, Hammamet, Tunisia – waiting for the PICARD2017 Conference activities to start tomorrow Monday evening – an old question popped to my mind: “How many Customs officers there are totally in the world”?


Before elaborating on that question, I want to share this first: I had a fantastic experience yesterday when arriving to the Tunis-Carthage International Airport: I was first greeted by a Tunisian Customs Officer when exiting from the plane, then taken to a comfortable waiting room, served the strongest coffee like ever (which I really needed, after starting my Thun-Bern-Geneva-Zurich-Tunis train and flight adventure at 7am on Saturday morning) – before being kindly driven (escorted by police) to the Hotel Russelior here in Hammamet. Special thanks to the Tunisian Customs welcome committee, with whom we also pondered a bit on “how unique / common is customs officers job across the globe”.

Now, it is a fact that “every country has their customs” – sometimes even considered to be the “second oldest profession in the world” (tax collection function, I believe…). It is also a fact that counting the exact number of customs officers can be a tricky task, due to the different administrative and legal structures of customs, tax and border police/guard functions across the globe. We at Cross-border Research Association have, however, used a rough estimate since around ten years as part of our academic lectures (in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Latvia, China, US, Costa Rica and so forth), the magic number being 1 million active officers. I cannot any more recall which were the sources to estimate this one decade ago; but even in the best case, this has been just an educated guess…

Two weeks ago, I was lucky to join a World Economic Forum and Global Alliance mission to Morocco, where this question also popped up, that time with a top customs expert from France. He made quick calculations using “country averages” across 180 or so countries, and came up with – tadaa… – 0.5 million officers! And for me, the logic and reasoning sounded quite solid, though bit to the bottom-end of the spectrum. Maybe the truth lies somewhere between 0.5 to 1 million officers? I will of course check tomorrow night with the WCOs Research Unit whether they have a “latest & greatest” number available, let’s wait and see if the wisdom lies there…

In the meanwhile, I invite all CBRA Blog readers to send their own magic number, together with a justification and/or a source, to our email address:  cbra (at)  We will have a lucky drawing of a recent CBRA Book among all those who send their reply to us by 24.10.2017. And, in case we receive a “proven correct number”, we will offer this expert a nice dinner for two, in their hometown favourite restaurant..!  (terms and conditions apply, including an upper limit for the restaurant bill).


CBRA Blog on 24.9.2017 by Dr. Juha Hintsa


PS. In any case, Customs Officers form a unique global community: every country has them – just like police, firemen, nurses, accountants etc. – but all in all say maximum 0.013% of world population (7.5 billion people) work in customs. How unique is that – not common at all to be a Customs Officer!

PPS. The lucky drawing prize book is: Hintsa, J. (2017), “Supply Chain Security (SCS) Compendium: A Decade of SCS Research”, HEC University of Lausanne, Switzerland & Riga Technical University, Latvia.

CBRA hits the WTO TFAF radar!

We are happy to announce that Cross-border Research Association is now listed on the “Other Specialized Organizations” section on the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF) website:


And here is the CBRA intro text (with two example studies) shared on that webpage:

Cross-border Research Association, CBRA, formally established in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2005, is an independent research institute focusing on advanced supply chain security, crime prevention, risk management, trade facilitation, cross-border trade and logistics, and public-private co-operation research, training and consulting – all this in the context of global supply chains and logistics systems. Other CBRA-competencies include international standardization work, particularly in connection of supply chain security management; development of quantitative models, including cost-benefit analysis; development of e-learning applications; as well as execution of scientific dissemination, particularly in the context of European FP7 and other research projects. CBRA works with both public sector and private sector actors, while carrying out this research, for the benefit of business and government practitioners, policy makers and academics alike.

Examples of key trade facilitation studies undertaken by CBRA in the past couple of years include the following two:

  1. Improving the Border Agency Cooperation Among the OIC Member States for Facilitating Trade (2016). This project was commissioned by the Secretariat of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation (COMCEC) of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). It is an evidence-based report on best practices in international and national border agency cooperation (BAC), incorporating a tangible BAC-roadmap for the 57 OIC members.
  1. The Import VAT and duty De-Minimis in the European Union- Where Should They be and What Will be the Impact? (2014). The study was mandated by the European Express Association (EEA), Belgium. It is an economic and consumer behaviour study to assess the optimum level for VAT and duty de-minimis levels across the European Union taking into account the cost of tax collection for public administrations and the cost of import processes and procedures for the private sector. The main outcome of the project was an economic model based on 10 million+ EU import records from the four main express carriers, pointing to the optimum of VAT and duty de-minimis threshold in the EU, when considering the total cost of tax collection between customs, tax, importer, freight forwarder / transport carrier.


CBRA update on 31.8.2017 by Dr. Sangeeta Mohanty

The IPPC´s ePhyto Business Model -study

The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) Secretariat at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is currently working to establish an Electronic phytosanitary certificate (ePhyto) system consisting of (i) an internationally accessible Hub, “ePhyto Hub”, to facilitate the transfer of electronic phytosanitary certificates between the National Plant Protection Organizations (NPPOs) and (ii) a generic national system “GeNS” available to countries for the production, sending and receiving of electronic phytosanitary certificates to the ePhyto Hub. The combination of these two systems is referred to as “the ePhyto Solution”. Full details of the ePhyto project, along with all background and explanatory documents, are available on the IPPC website at

This work is being undertaken by the IPPC Secretariat with the financial support of the Standards and Trade Development Facility of the WTO and various donor countries to enhance the safe, secure and efficient trade of plants and plant products, via expanding the use of electronic phytosanitary certificates. By and large, the current exchange of standardized phytosanitary certificates between NPPOs is undertaken on the basis of paper documents. In 2012, an appendix on electronic phytosanitary certification to the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures 12 (ISPM 12) was approved, providing guidance on the exchange of electronic phytosanitary certificates. Some contracting parties to the IPPC – predominantly developed countries – have made significant advances in developing systems for electronic certification, exploiting this standard. However, these have often required considerable resources to develop the electronic tools necessary for producing, sending and receiving electronic certificates as well as negotiating bilateral agreements with trading partners to allow for exchange.

The IPPC ePhyto Hub, on the other hand, will facilitate electronic exchange based upon a single communication protocol, eliminating the cost and complexity of bilateral exchange protocols. The IPPC project will also provide a simple generic web-based system (GeNS) to issue, send and receive electronic phytosanitary certificates, for those countries that do not have an existing national system today. Ultimately, the combination of these two systems will make it easier for countries – especially those with limited resources – to exchange electronic phytosanitary certificates.

The FAO has contracted TDAF Consulting ( to develop the business model for the ePhyto Solution and this work is being undertaken by Mr Tom Butterly, TDAF Director and Lead Consultant, along with Dr. Juha Hintsa and Ms. Susana Wong from CBRA. The TDAF and CBRA team have been gathering related information on the business models and experiences of National Single Windows (NSW), Port Community Systems (PCS) and related International Organizations (IO) all around the world. If you represent a NSW, a PCS or an IO and you are interested in providing useful information on your business model related to this topic, please do not hesitate to contact Ms. Wong (

In addition, the team will carry out a survey of the NPPOs and business users to determine their preferences (i) regarding the funding / financing model as well as (ii) the benefits and key attributes that they would anticipate seeing in the IPPC ePhyto solution.

For further information related to the business model aspect of this project, please contact Tom Butterly:


CBRA Blog on 29.8.2017 by Ms. Susana Wong


INTERPOL World 2017, set in the vibrant city of Singapore brought together law enforcement agencies, government bodies, academia, security professionals and solution providers together over four days of networking and information exchange this July. The event which included both a global exhibition and congress aimed to stimulate collaborations between stakeholders, and encapsulate the vision of a safer world engaging government, organizations, and strategic think-tanks in a multi-stakeholder approach.

The INTERPOL World Congress featured over 40 speakers across the public and private sectors, addressing pressing concerns related to Cybercrime, Safe Cities, and Identity Management.

INTERPOL World 2017 allowed CBRA to showcase our approach and strategies in tackling global supply chain security concerns. Mr. Mike Ellis MSc (CBRA Senior Advisor on Illicit Trade) delivered a presentation during the INTERPOL exhibition promoting the activities of CBRA and highlighted our cooperation with INTERPOL on the FP7-CORE project.

In addition, many international suppliers and manufacturers, presented their own innovative solutions for public security, supply chain and perimeter security.  CBRA recognised that digitalization has led to increased use of identity-related information linking vehicles, ships and devices – among many other lessons learned during the event.

A recurring topic during the event was how modern technology has evolved to allow criminals greater ease of international travel and operate in an anonymous world of virtual business, to disrupt commercial and public stability.

Mike Ellis emphasized the need for national law enforcers to maintain a multi-stakeholder approach to combat against the many security challenges in the operational landscape, stating ‘Supply chain security will only remain effective providing we cooperate across all disciplines’.

Finally, the INTERPOL World Expo highlighted how the growing transfusion of data and information can be crucial in securing supply chain, as an estimated 50 billion devices will be connected to one another by 2020, and, how trade corridors and border security initiatives will see an estimated USD $ 105 billion spent in those areas.


CBRA Blog on 12.7.2017, by. Mr. Mike Ellis


Environmental Crime – Challenges and Propositions

Environmental crimes can be broadly defined as unlawful acts that directly harm the environment. Today the most common forms of environmental crime include the illegal trade in wildlife and exploitation of wild fauna and flora; smuggling of ozone depleting substances; illicit waste disposal and its trade; unregulated and unreported fishing; and illegal logging and trade in stolen timber. Environmental crime is one of the most lucrative business sectors operated by both individuals and organised crime syndicates. It can be as financially rewarding as illegal drug trafficking, but has relatively low risks of detection with much lower levels of sanctions, providing a powerful incentive for malicious perpetrators.


Law enforcement authorities are confronted with a series of challenges that prevents a response commensurate with the magnitude and atrocity of this crime type. Some crucial bottlenecks need to be appropriately addressed to reach solutions.

First, international and national legislation is all too often inadequate or complex. Regarding the protection of endangered species, a large number of instruments are in force. The main piece of international legislation draws from the CITES Convention. In addition, the EU provides additional legislation for protection, including the ‘Birds Directive’ and the ‘Habitats Directive’, which are the mainstay of European nature conservation policy. The more the number of instruments, the more complicated it gets for practitioners at the national level. In the case of waste, there are ambiguities in the definition of waste and in the distinction between waste and used goods both in international and EU legislation, leading to diverse interpretations. Moreover, national laws vary and what is considered illegal in the sending country may be considered legal in the recipient country – or, vice versa.

Second, there is a paucity of specialist knowledge, financial and human resources to carry out inspections. The staff is often poorly trained for intelligence-led detection and investigation. To cite an example, in the case of e-waste, officers are not always properly trained to distinguish between used equipment and waste and have difficulty in proving the illegal nature of the shipment because e-waste is often mixed with functional goods.  Generally speaking, prosecutors and judges are not adequately informed about environmental crimes and remain insensitive to this category of violations that is widely perceived as “victimless”.

Third, in many countries, a large range of agencies is involved in countering illegal trade, with each authority holding only partial information. Such a division of intelligence is a barrier to proactive control, including targeted inspections. A lack of coordination between administrative bodies can also lead to a situation where the public prosecutor does not receive the proper and necessary information for successful prosecution. There is also limited coordination and intelligence sharing at the international level, which is crucial due to the transboundary nature of environmental crime. Weaknesses in international information sharing currently contribute to the common practice of “port hopping”, whereby offenders, once detected at one port, simply move their operations to another port, where the authorities are unaware of their past offences.

Fourth, corruption is a gnawing issue as is economic sustenance. Driven by greed and avarice, government and corporate officials perceive this an easy option to cash in. Members of poor local communities are frequently lured with money to work for the criminal gangs.

Currently, there is an element of institutional reticence with regard to environmental crime, possibly because of a fundamental lack of awareness of the scale of the problem, or the responses needed to counter it. Criminals are usually well- aware of the weaknesses in legislation and enforcement efforts that prevent an effective response and exploit these to their own gain. They are early adopters of new technologies and are getting better at evading intervention, diversifying their contraband and geographies, and becoming more difficult to monitor.

Environmental crime needs to be viewed as a serious crime area, given higher priority and allocated appropriate monetary and human resources, especially when it contains cross-border elements. National and international cooperation is a key requirement in the form of intelligence exchange, mutual assistance, and best practice sharing. Reducing the complexity of legislation, harmonising definitions and standardising their interpretations are also essential. More training and information sessions for investigators and prosecutors and judges are important. The problem of corruption should be tackled by introducing anti-corruption measures and promoting good governance at all levels. Finally, law enforcement is not just about clamping down, but also a question of providing alternative livelihoods that prevent local populations from being a party to environmental offences. Environmental violations are rampant and a well-coordinated and coherent global response is required to tackle this formidable crime.


30.6.2017, CBRA Blog by Dr. Sangeeta Mohanty

ROADSEC and CORE presented in Mexico!

The Mexican Institute of Transport (MIT) organized a conference Security and Protection of Critical Infrastructure in Quéretaro on 8 June 2017. I had a pleasure to visit Mexico and join the event as a guest speaker. The invitation-only conference assembled leading Mexican road transport security experts and a handful of international specialists to discuss and share views on security trends, threats, and solutions.


The conference agenda was packed with quality speakers. Mr. Saverio Palchetti, the President of the “Infrastructure Security” task force of the World Road Association (PIARC), framed the road security challenge in his welcome speech. He reminded the audience of the constantly changing security risks and recommended a shift from reactive to proactive mindset in road transport security. The General Director of the Mexican Institute of Transport, Mr. Roberto Aguerrebere, highlighted the importance of international and industry-government cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism in the road transport sector. The keynote speaker, Mr. Oscar Callejo, the Undersecretary of Infrastructure at the Ministry of Communications and Transport (SCT) and the President of the Strategic Planning Commission of the World Road Association (PIARC), delivered a strong message that security should never be forgotten when transport and logistics systems are designed. Other conference highlights included presentations by the Mexican Federal Police, Freight Watch International, and researcher Luz Angélica Gradilla.

My two presentations focused on ROADSEC and CORE, two major CBRA projects that are approaching the end. The ROADSEC presentation introduced the conference participants to the project and explained its implications to road transport security in Europe and elsewhere. The presentation raised great interest in the audience, and several experts pointed out synergies between the European and Mexican efforts on road transport security, especially considering cargo thefts and hijacks. There seems to be both strong interest and promising opportunities to strengthen trans-Atlantic cooperation on road transport security!

My second presentation focused on FP7-project CORE. After a brief overview on the critical infrastructure protection in the European Union, I presented some findings of the CORE demonstrator with ENI, an Italian multinational oil and gas company. The conference audience expressed wide interest in the use of modern satellite tracking solutions for securing dangerous chemical deliveries. I concluded the CORE presentation by sharing some good security practices of chemical logistics that CBRA colleagues and myself have learned during CORE and other projects. All conference participants received also CORE brochures in Spanish for further information.

The Mexican trip was a success. I would like to express my gratitude to the organizers at the Mexican Institute of Transport (MIT) and my host Eduardo for this great experience. Hopefully we see again soon, for example in the context of global road transport security research projects!


CBRA Blog on 28.6.2017 by Dr. Toni Mannisto

New CBRA report for the European Parliament

ABSTRACT: The subject of trade facilitation and border management lies at the heart of EU trade policy, which seeks to take advantage of global value chains for the benefit of workers, consumers and businesses. This demands that goods may flow smoothly across borders without jeopardising EU values and standards. Trade facilitation principles help reduce the cost of cross-border trade in goods while safeguarding regulatory control objectives. Good border management practice is integral to trade facilitation. In this study many ideas and examples about how borders management can be improved are shown. The key is coordination, cooperation and integration within the respective border agencies (intra-agency), between the many border agencies (interagency) and international (with colleagues across the border and EU trade partners). Despite considerable policy interest, research is still in its infancy. There is much demand for further enquiry. This paper discusses relevant principles, ideas and concepts and concludes with a list of recommendations. This includes the recommendation to develop suitable EU institutions in aid of trade facilitation as well as for research.

RECOMMENDATIONS: This study, in line with its terms of reference, has had broad ambitions. The subject of border management in trade policy is still evolving. As authors, we acknowledge that our work is open to criticism and might benefit from being further developed. However, it does provide an introduction to the complexities of trade operations (Section 2) and underlying trade facilitation ideas (Section 3) to help bring down the costs while safeguarding regulatory objectives and ensuring the smooth flow of goods across borders. Border management (Section 4) as a subject is also still evolving, while remaining intrinsically linked to trade facilitation. Indeed, many of the EU’s multilateral, bilateral and regional trade commitments hold the EU and its trade partners accountable to their performance in border management. The key dimensions as discussed in 4.1 are:

1) inter-agency cooperation between offices and facilities of the same agency, in different parts of the country;

2) intra-agency cooperation, such as the example of the Finnish Border Guard with Finnish Customs, and also stressed by Article 8 of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement; and

3) international cooperation, examples of which include not only the arrangements between Sweden, Finland and Norway or between Germany-Switzerland and France-Switzerland, but also in other forms and shapes of customs cooperation agreements and bilateral trade agreements.

However, the question that begs itself, and touched upon in Section 5, is how to hold countries accountable to their performance in trade facilitation and border management? We argue that the EU and its member states need to develop suitable institutions to help identify business concerns with regard to trade facilitation and border performance. This is a binding obligation within the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (Article 2 and 238). The commitment to transparency, dialogue and consultation is also a promise within the Commission’s “Trade for all” (3.1) strategy. Coordinated National Trade Facilitation Bodies across the EU are essential to help to ensure that policy makers are able to adequately capture the experienced frustrations and other observations of relevant stakeholders at home and with trade partners. More and more countries are launching National Trade Facilitation Bodies (as required by WTO TFA Article 23), and the EU and its member states are advised to follow suite. Considering the complexity of trade arrangements (Section 2) the work of such bodies is no small task and needs to be able to effectively hold border agencies accountable to performance at home and abroad.

This leads to our next recommendation that was touched upon in Section 5. Although there are a number of established comparative benchmarking tools to cross-border performance, they are not without critics. Robust assessment tools have not yet been developed and are needed. The development of suitably tested assessment methodologies and tools is recommended. In this context, we also sense that there is a vast pool of data to draw upon that has not yet been tapped. Big data analytics could provide for new ways of untangling complexity (Section 2), while developing insights into the performance of border facilities. For example, tracked mobile phone data and GPS signals from truck drivers can give insight into the performance of ferry ports like Dover. Investments into explorative research projects and pilot studies is strongly advised.

It needs to be stressed that although there are many ideas about how to reduce the regulatory burden at borders, innovation does not stand still. As the FloraHolland example shows (4.3.4), reconceptualising the border away from the frontier and along trade lanes could be one particularly fruitful approach that could be neatly packaged within a bilateral trade and/or cooperation agreement. Again, further explorative work is recommended.

A trade lane (or supply chain) perspective towards controls also provides opportunities for finding synergies and efficiencies between the economic operators and border agencies. Many companies may have their own internal control measures in place – for example to ensure that the goods they

received were in line with contractually agreed performance indicators. It would be worth exploring to what extent the internal controls of businesses within supply chain operations can be aligned with or recognised in lieu of official controls. An extension of the Authorized Economic Operator and Trusted Trade Lane concepts could serve as a model (Hintsa, 2013; Hintsa, Urciuoli, & Tan, 2016; Widdowson et al., 2014). Further enquiry is recommended.

We also sense that the relationship between border controls and their effectiveness in terms of safeguarding EU values and standards needs to be developed further, too. It goes without saying that many risks are home grown, and, where risks have international dimensions, the use of irregular border crossings needs to be better understood. Research is advised.

One line of enquiry is to measure the performance of border agencies with regards to protecting society. CBRA has developed an initial model that is being currently tested in a handful of EU member states. This model uses parameters and data known to customs administrations, including percentage of containers selected for targeted and for random controls, and hit rates of various categories of controls. As the main output, the model provides an estimation on how many percent of the potential illicit imports to a certain country (or, EU) – can be containers, parcels, bulk etc. – each customs administration is capable of detecting / stopping / seizing, during a given year (or any other time period). However, the work is still in its infancy and would benefit from further testing and application.

In line with commitments to trade facilitation and border management reform the EU and its Member States have already made many significant investments into trade and border management infrastructure. It might be prudent to develop quantitative and qualitative measures to assess the overall quality of the EU trade and customs environment. By reference to these measures the effectiveness of improvements can be better assessed. Standardised measures may also assist policy makers tasked with producing costbenefit analysis on a case by case basis. The development of an EU wide assessment framework is advised.

REFERENCE: Grainger A., and Hintsa J. (2017). The role of border management in implementing trade policy goals. Brussels: European Parliament.