WCO’s Knowledge Academy for Customs & Trade

wcoThis week’s CBRA blog is an interview with Mr. Greg Pilkington, who is an Executive Officer at the World Customs Organization in Brussels, Belgium.

Hi Greg, and thanks for joining CBRA blog interview. We go quite long back in history: I think we first met at DHL in Brussels during summer 2001, topic being a landed cost engine project – do you remember this?

Fondly! It was my first foray into the world of international trade from the perspective of the largest express carrier in the world. With the explosion of the Internet near the turn of the new millennium and exponential increases in online shopping driven primarily by e-Bay and Amazon, DHL was experiencing difficulty in calculating the “Landed Cost” of these products being ordered online. Anecdotally, the Managing Director of DHL Global Operations noted at the time that the project we developed, Worldwide Clearance System (WCS) and the related Trade Automation Services (TAS) front-end application, were done in the least amount of time and with more efficiency than any other IT development at DHL.

Yes, I remember those days – myself also taking first baby-steps in your project towards my doctoral thesis in supply chain security at HEC University of Lausanne… And what have you been up to since then?

I left DHL and went to FedEx to do basically the same thing. I was recruited by FedEx to work in their International Division to establish the Project Management Office (PMO). My first project was to address the Advanced Commercial Information (ACI) project developed by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). On the FedEx side, the project was called Advanced Regulatory Information (ARI).

During the development of the ARI project I had the opportunity to work with FedEx’s most Senior Management on the strategic direction of their Customs & Regulatory programs. We spent a lot of time and effort in discussing strategy and the most effective way forward globally.

After successful implementation of the ARI project, I then led a team on the development of FedEx’s AEO program in Europe. It was during this time that the World Customs Organization was looking for an experienced Project manager with competence in Strategy Formulation.

One of our mutual connections in the WCO put me on to the post. It was because of the network that we had developed together during the WCS project at DHL, which you were involved in the development of the WCO Data Model 1.0, that I was able to secure an interview with then Deputy Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya. He hired me to be the new Executive Officer responsible for Strategic Planning.

After Mr. Mikuriya’s election as Secretary General, I assumed the responsibility for Budget and Strategy. Over the eight years I have been with the WCO I have worn many hats. I currently am responsible for the Strategic Plan, the organization of two of our external events, the annual WCO IT Conference & Exhibition and the WCO Technology & Innovation Forum, and I act as an internal project management consultant to my colleagues in the WCO Directorates, among many other tasks.

Last week must have been a busy one at WCO, being the annual Council week. Can you share any insights or highlights from the Council sessions last week?

This was a particularly interesting Council for several reasons. First, all three of the WCO Director posts were up for election. I take this opportunity to congratulate all three on their successful campaigns. The winners were Ms. Ana Hinojosa of the United States who was elected as Director of Compliance and Facilitation, Mr. Ernani Checcucci of Brazil was elected as Director of Capacity Building, and finally, Mr. Ping Liu of China was elected as Director for Tariff and Trade Affairs.

Secondly, the Council welcomed Palestine, the WCO’s newest and 180th Member, which attended the Council for the first time.

The Council celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the SAFE Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade by adopting a third pillar, Customs to Other Government Agencies and Inter-Government Agencies, as well as the incorporation of standards for “Pre-loading Advance Cargo Information” with respect to air cargo to facilitate a first layer of security risk analysis in collaboration with civil aviation authorities.

Sounds like a familiar topic? Advanced Cargo Information is directly related to the work I was doing for DHL and FedEx.

During the Council, the Chairperson raised four specific issues which were to guide the discussions, namely: digital Customs, performance measurement, strategic planning, and Coordinated Border Management (CBM), the WCO’s theme for 2015. Members welcomed the revised Revenue Package, new additions to the security programme such as the I2C, and a set of 20 indicators to guide discussions on performance measurement.

As I mentioned earlier, my work as Executive Officer includes the development of the performance indicators and the WCO’s Strategic Plan – two of the four specific issues mentioned by the Chair. Likewise, as the organizer of the WCO’s external events, I am heavily involved with the WCO’s Trade Facilitation directorate on the coordination of participation by WCO Members and other government agencies in the pursuit of Coordinated Border Management.

The WCO Knowledge Academy seems to be kicking off today Wednesday, is that correct?

That is correct. In addition to my other ‘hats’, I also organize the WCO’s annual Knowledge Academy for Customs & Trade, which I developed in 2011. For the past five years, the summer academy has attracted more than one hundred delegates from around the globe for an intensive two week session filled with three tracks that follow the outline of the WCO’s work in the areas of Tariff & Trade Affairs, Trade Facilitation and the programs of the WCO.

The Knowledge Academy attracts delegates from both the public and private sectors. We will have more than 70 speakers in ten modules over the course of the two weeks. This Saturday, we will take the delegates to the Port of Rotterdam to visit the port and to see the Dutch Tax & Customs Museum. One of the basic principles of the academy is to encourage the networking between delegates, especially those from the private and public sectors.

Can you share some more information on the background and purpose of the WCO Academy?

It’s an interesting story. I was not originally in charge of the development of the Knowledge Academy. In 2010, my colleagues were assigned the task of organizing the inaugural event. However, the challenges of organizing such a large event coupled with the difficulties in securing funding proved to be more than they could handle.

At the time, and still today, I was responsible for a number of the WCO’s commercial activities. We had just signed a contract with a large training provider and one of my tasks was to transfer the knowledge from the WCO to the training provider. About the same time, WCO Senior Management came to me and asked if I would be willing to develop the Knowledge Academy as it never materialized in 2010.

I saw the Knowledge Academy as an opportunity to “kill two birds with one stone”. I needed to transfer the knowledge we had in our repositories and online training modules to the new training provider and the Secretary General wanted to initiate the academy to meet the needs of WCO Members.

My solution was to pair the new training company’s trainers and facilitators with the WCO’s subject matter experts to deliver each course. By pairing them up, we were able to “instruct” the new trainers through a ‘hands-on’ approach to sharing knowledge. The new trainers learned the WCO materials in a classroom setting while simultaneously delivering the training to our delegates. It was a win-win-win as WCO Members are able to attend the academy at no charge, the Secretary General was happy to see the successful implementation of the academy, and the new training provider ‘s staff were fully trained in the process.

OK, thanks for sharing this background information. By the way, I think I have joined twice to present our latest research work – in 2011, I presented our on-going project on “Supply chain security good practices guidebook for small and medium sized enterprises”; and in 2014, I presented the main outcomes of our “De-minimis optimization study in the European Union”(the final reports of both projects are available to public: the former one (for a small price) at the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) as well as several national standardization bodies web-shops; and the latter one can be downloaded (for free) from our web-site, www.cross-border.org ). And back to this year´s event: what are the main themes and topics this year at the Knowledge Academy?

Of course, with the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) containing mostly Customs-related matters, the TFA is a vital part of this year’s Knowledge Academy. As in previous years, we begin the academy with a conference. This year’s conference is on Regional Integration. That theme will be carried through all three tracks of the academy. The three tracks include Tariff & Trade Affairs, Trade Facilitation, and the Public Sector.

The most popular courses are the Harmonized System, Customs Valuation, and Rules of Origin given their practical nature. Likewise, the AEO course and WCO Data Model course are also very practical for those that are involved in cross border trade.

I would be remiss if I did not highlight again that one of the best take-aways from attending the academy is the network that you can build while you’re here. The academy is held in the WCO’s headquarters and is led by WCO Technical Officers and Technical Attachés. The delegates that attend tend to be from upper middle management and the contacts made are invaluable. We purposefully design the program to maximize interaction between delegates.

Here is the web-link to the Academy page: http://www.wcoomd.org/en/events/upcoming-events/2015-knowledge-academy.aspx

If any of the CBRA blog readers wants to join this year’s WCO Knowledge Academy, who should they contact?

For more information on the academy they can visit the academy website at www.etouches.com/kact2015. They can also contact the team by writing to KACT2015@wcoomd.org.

Thanks a lot Greg, and see you this summer in Brussels – how about a beer when I am coming over for FP7-CORE project annual review in early July?

I’ll be in the States from 24 June until 26 July. But any time after that is good!

Academia de la OMA

wcoThis week’s CBRA blog is an interview with Mr. Greg Pilkington, who is an Executive Officer at the World Customs Organization in Brussels, Belgium.

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