The World Customs Organization (WCO) is an intergovernmental organization headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. The WCO maintains the international Harmonized System (HS) goods nomenclature, and administers the technical aspects of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements on Customs Valuation and Rules of Origin.With its worldwide membership, the WCO is recognized as the voice of the global customs community. It is particularly noted for its work in areas covering the development of international conventions, instruments, and tools on topics such as commodity classification, valuation, rules of origin, collection of customs revenue, supply chain security, international trade facilitation, customs enforcement activities, combating counterfeiting in support of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), integrity promotion, and delivering sustainable capacity building to assist with customs reforms and modernization.
In 1947, thirteen European countries established a Study Group to examine customs issues identified by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). This work led to the adoption in 1950 of the Convention Establishing the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC), which was signed in Brussels. On January 26, 1953 the CCC’s inaugural session took place with the participation of 17 founding members. WCO membership subsequently expanded to cover all regions of the globe. In 1994, the organization adopted its current name, the World Customs Organization. Today, WCO members are responsible for customs controls on more than 98% of all international trade.
The WCO is internationally acknowledged as the global centre of customs expertise and plays a leading role in the discussion, development, promotion and implementation of modern customs systems and procedures. It is responsive to the needs of its members and its strategic environment, and its instruments and best-practice approaches are recognized as the basis for sound customs administration throughout the world. The WCO’s primary objective is to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of member customs administrations, thereby assisting them to contribute successfully to national development goals, particularly revenue collection, national security, trade facilitation, community protection, and collection of trade statistics.
In order to achieve its objectives, the WCO has adopted a number of customs instruments, including but not limited to the following: The International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS Convention) was adopted in 1983 and came into force in 1988. The HS multipurpose goods nomenclature is used as the basis for customs tariffs and for the compilation of international trade statistics. It comprises about 5000 commodity groups, each identified by a six digit code arranged in a legal and logical structure with well-defined rules to achieve uniform classification. The HS is also used for many other purposes involving trade policy, rules of origin, monitoring of controlled goods, internal taxes, freight tariffs, transport statistics, quota controls, price monitoring, compilation of national accounts, and economic research and analysis.