Post-Customs cooperation in a new regulatory era

Postal processes dependence on high-quality data has grown at an unprecedented pace.

The provision of electronic advance data (EAD), which includes sending the customs declaration information to destination, became mandatory on 1 January 2021 for international postal items containing goods to destinations with specific customs- and security-based requirements. On this date, the United States STOP (Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention) Act fully came into force, requiring EAD for all packets sent to the country. On 1 July 2021, the value-added tax (VAT) e-commerce regime changed for the 27 European Union (EU) member states, making all items containing goods taxable, and increasing the reliance of postal customs clearance processes on high-quality data.
These developments are further reinforced by the adoption of pre-loading advance cargo information (PLACI) frameworks, which intend to enhance aviation security through risk assessment of postal items’ EAD. To conduct such an assessment, destination countries implementing PLACI require that customs declarations be sent in advance, before goods are loaded on a plane at the origin country. The first PLACI framework applied to postal items is the EU’s Import Control System (ICS2), which is currently implemented by the 27 EU member states, Switzerland and Norway. As a result, all postal operators sending items containing goods to these 29 ICS2 countries need to provide EAD in advance, before handing items over to an air carrier.
Despite the rapid speed of changes within the postal sector and the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, all postal operators have made enormous efforts to comply with these increased EAD and customs requirements. For example, since January 2020, the number of designated postal operators capable of transmitting electronic customs declaration data has increased twofold: from 89 to 188. Nevertheless, many UPU member countries are still struggling to comply with EAD requirements for all items dispatched, owing to several financial, legal, operational and technical chal­lenges.
Post-Customs cooperation has therefore never been more relevant. On 9 and 10 November 2021, we held our 41st World Customs Organization (WCO)-UPU Contact Committee meeting. It was also our first ever meeting conducted in the hybrid format.
Among many subjects, including Post-Customs cooperation, capacity building, security, and e-commerce, our Contact Committee examined and endorsed two key proposals. The first one addressed an improvement to the postal customs declaration forms, allowing data to be captured  in an easier and more flexible way. The second one was related to the revision of the WCO-UPU Joint Message Standards (JMS), to include a section on the WCO Data Model, which should facilitate and foster data exchange between posts and customs at the national level. Both proposals support the smooth exchange of information between posts and customs, which should result in improved compliance with the evolving regulatory requirements related to EAD. 
Our WCO-UPU Contact Committee has also developed several instruments and tools to assist posts and customs of the WCO and UPU member countries. For example, the WCO-UPU Postal Customs Guide, and the joint WCO-UPU guidelines on data capture and compliance (both available here) will help posts and customs address many of the legal, operational, and technical challenges they commonly face in the EAD implementation.
Finally, as the outgoing Customs Group Chair handing over the relay for the 2022-2025 Abidjan cycle, I would like to highlight the importance of maintaining the ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders and institutions involved in these regulatory changes. An open dialogue will allow us to better support postal operations continuity through the EAD implementation and to lay the foundations for the successful future of our Union.‚Äč
Christelle Defaye-Geneste, Director of European and Customs Affairs, La Poste France, and Chair of the WCO-UPU Contact Committee over the 2017-2021 Istanbul cycle
To learn more about the WCO-UPU customs-related cooperation, click here to visit the dedicated website section.