The U-Freight Group (UFL), with its considerable involvement in e-commerce logistics, has welcomed the recent publication by the World Customs Organization (WCO) of guiding principles for cross-border e-commerce aimed at developing common standards and tools for customs clearance and data harmonisation, while facilitating legitimate e-commerce flows.

The Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce – as adopted at the end of June 2018 by the WCO Council, the organisation’s highest decision-making body, together with a resolution aimed at ensuring its harmonised and effective implementation – was published last week.

Building upon the key principles laid down in the Luxor Resolution adopted in December 2017, the Framework of Standards sets out baseline global standards on cross-border e-commerce and U-Freight believes it will help shape this rapidly evolving sector of global trade.

UFL CEO Simon Wong said the “exponential growth” of e-commerce and the increased role of consumers in individual transactions pose several challenges to governments and businesses like, whether in terms of trade facilitation, safety/security or the collection of duties and taxes.

“At U-Freight, in our development of e-commerce logistics solutions, we are continually trying to address the key issues stemming from increasing volumes of business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce shipments and the time sensitivity thereof,” he pointed out.

Examples of those efforts include investment in the company’s warehouse facilities. UFL has been qualified by China Customs and CIQ (China Inspection and Quarantine) as a licensed Cross-border E-Commerce Enterprise and as a Cross-Border E-Commerce Logistics Service Provider.

WCO said the new Framework of Standards “contains 15 standards that are concise, progressive and focused on the e-commerce environment, with a view to providing pragmatic, fair, and innovative solutions whilst taking into account the diverse expectations and concerns of Customs administrations and stakeholders”.

These standards pertain to the legal framework for advance electronic data; use of international standards for advance electronic data; risk management for facilitation and control; use of non-intrusive inspection technologies and data analytics; simplified clearance procedures; expanding the concept of Authorised Economic Operator to cross-border e-commerce; and models of revenue collection.

They also cover de minimis; prevention of fraud and illicit trade; inter-agency cooperation and information sharing; public-private partnerships; international cooperation; communication, public awareness and outreach; mechanism of measurement; and exploring technological developments and innovation.

The core essence of the framework is the exchange of advance electronic data for effective risk management and enhanced facilitation of growing volumes of cross-border small and low-value business-to-consumer and consumer-to-consumer shipments, and the adoption of simplified procedures with respect to clearance, revenue collection and return, among other things, in close partnership with e-commerce stakeholders.

It also encourages the use of non-intrusive inspection equipment, data analytics and other cutting-edge technologies to support safe, secure, and sustainable cross-border e-commerce.

The framework is intended for customs administrations wishing to develop legislative and operational frameworks for cross-border e-commerce.

It will be equally useful for those seeking to enhance their existing frameworks in order to effectively meet the requirements of new and evolving business models, said WCO.

Administrations are expected to implement these standards in close cooperation with other relevant government agencies and e-commerce stakeholders, in accordance with their national priorities, capacity, human and financial resources, and internal procedures.

Going forward, the framework will be further enriched with technical specifications and guidelines for its timely, effective, and harmonious implementation.

The WCO said it will also support its members with implementing the framework and associated tools through capacity-building activities. Five regional workshops are already planned for 2018/2019, with the first such event to take place in India this month.