World Customs Organization – Definition

Cite this article as:"World Customs Organization – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated May 14, 2019, last accessed October 26, 2020,


World Customs Organization (WCO) Definition

The World Customs Organization (WCO) is an intergovernmental organization that was created in 1952. WCO focuses on customs administrations, it maintains the professionalism and efficiency of the sector. WCO is independent and performs a wide range of functions in international customs administrations.

The World Customs Organization has its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, it is an organization that promotes reforms and modernization as well as the integrity and effectiveness of customs enforcement activities. WCO also facilitate internations trade and the development of international conventions within custom bodies.

A Little More on What is the World Customs Organization

The World Customs Organization (WCO) was established in 1952, this organization is made up of 182 customs administration across the world. WCO has an undoubted ocompetence in enhancing effectiveness and standard practices within the customs administrations it represents.

WCO is governed by the Council which depend on the secretariat, technical committees and advisory bodies to accomplish its mission. More than 100 international officials, technical practitioners, support staff and experts make up the secretariat of WCO. The secretariat offers training and technical assistance to members of WCO that want to grow in capacity in terms of customs administrations.

In general, WCO stimulates legitimate international trade by combating illegal activities that pose a threat to nations around the world. There are seven prominent and strategic goals that the World Customs Organization (WCO) aims to achieve, they include the following;

  1. Promotion of Security and Facilitation of International Trade

This first strategic goal is an all-encompassing goal that includes the simplification and harmonization of customs procedures by the World Customs Organization. WCO aims to stimulate aconomic competitiveness among its members as this would enhance growth at different levels.

WCO also focuses on the implementation of toools that will harmonize customs procedures. For instance, WCO uses a customs instrument such as the HS convention (Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System), which has a logical structure to aid the achievement of uniform classification of commodities and the harmonization of customs procedures.

  1. Effective and Efficient Revenue Collection

This is another goal WCO aims to achieve, through the promotion of fair, effective and efficient revenue collection. Revenue collection is inseparable from customs procedures, this is because many nations of the world derive part of government revenue from customs duties. However, revenue collection as a practise in customs administrations must be fair and effective which is one of the goals that WCO facilitates. WCO ensures that all its members are fair, effective and efficient in the collection of customs duties.

  1. Protection of the Society and Promotion of Public Health and Safety

This is another strategic goal that is crucial to WCO, especially in societies faced with instability and the ever-present threat of terrorist activity. WCO must ensure compliance to safety rules and carry out enforcement when necessary and this would enhance the protection of society and national territory.

When there is customs border compliance to the types of goods that can be transported, it makes it easier to achieve a safe and secure society. WCO aims to promote compliance with customs rules and regulations by its member societies, it also implement enforcement on erring societies.

  1. Capacity Building and Organizational Development of its Members

Member societies with effective and efficient customs administrations are strengthened economically and socially. WCO as an independent intergovernmental body aims to facilitate organizational development and also strengthen the capacity of customs administrations. Three tools are vital for capacity building in customs administrations, these are People, Political will and Partnerships.

Also, through the implementation of international customs standards, ethical practises, systems and procedures, WCO is a reputable organization for capacity building and organizational development.

  1. Promotion of Information Exchange Between Stakeholders

For any organizational development, capacity building, efficient practise and effective customs administration tpo take place, the exchange and circulation of information is essential. The World Customs Organization creates an atmosphere and platform for the exchange of information among all of its members. This integration helps to facilitate cooperation and development among different societies.

Not only is information exchanged between stakeholders, experiences and methodologies are also exchanges between them.

  1. Enhancing Positive Performance and Profile of Customs Administration

Another essential goal that the World Customs Organization aims to achieve is to increase the performance and profile of customs administration positively. WCO achieves this goal by patnering with the international customs community, federal governments, private sectors and regional organizations to promote the roles and performance of customs administrations.

  1. Facilitation of Improved Research and Analysis

Part of the goals of the World Customs Organization is to ensure that its members, a total number of 182 Customs administrations are not dormant when it comes to research and analysis. Conducting regular research and analysis is an effective tool for generation of new ideas, standard practises and ethical procedures by members. WCO conducts reserach and analysis on diverse topics relating to customs and international trade practises which all its members benefit from.

References for World Customs Organization

Academic Research on World Customs Organization (WCO)

Short History of the World Customs Organization, A, Weerth, C. (2009). Global Trade & Cust. J., 4, 267.

Customs Valuation in Developing Countries and the World Trade Organization Valuation Rules, Goorman, A., & De Wulf, L. (2005). Customs Modernization Handbook, 155-81.

The World Customs Organization, Robinson, W. (1999). counte, 81.

The world customs organization: a short history and its legal milestones, Weerth, C. (2009). Global Trade and Customs Journal, 4(7/8), 267-269.

The World Customs Organization and its Role in the System of World Trade: An Overview, Wolffgang, H. M., & Dallimore, C. (2012). In European Yearbook of International Economic Law 2012 (pp. 613-633). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Dealing with forum shopping: some lessons from the SECURE negotiations at the World Customs Organization, Moraes, H. C. (2009). Intellectual Property Enforcement. International Perspectives. South Centre & Edward Elgar.

Trade Facilitation, Customs and the World Customs Organization: Introduction to the WCO Trade Facilitation Instruments, Matsudaira, T. T. (2007). Global Trade & Cust. J., 2, 243.

Structure and Function of the World Customs Organization, The, Weerth, C. (2009). Global Trade & Cust. J., 4, 131.

What is Persuasive-Pushing World Customs Organization Materials through the Skidmore Sieve, Friedman, L. M., & Martinez, C. H. (2008). Tul. J. Int’l & Comp. L., 17, 515.

World Customs Organization, Heath-Brown, N. (2015). The Statesman’s Yearbook 2016: The Politics, Cultures and Economies of the World, 58-58.

World Customs Organization safe framework of standards, Schmitz, M. (2008). Proceedings of an international conference.


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