One of the objectives of the World Customs Organization (formerly established as the Customs Co-operation Council) and the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA) is to formulate provisions, standards and best practices for effective cooperation between Customs or any other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and Customs compliance issues. The other objective is to clarify and improve relevant aspects of Articles V, VIII and X of the GATT 1994, and to enhance technical assistance and support for capacity building in the area of trade facilitation.
Customs cooperation at the international level aims at improving control of trade flows and the enforcement of applicable laws and regulations through the exchange of information on Customs aspects such as export and import declaration data, trader-related information, origin and valuation-related information. Such data exchanges are now a key element in the WTO TFA and Article 12 of the TFA addresses all necessary components for such information exchanges such as the need for the requesting country to verify its request, to protect the data exchanged and ensure the confidentiality of the data and that such data exchanges are based on the principle of reciprocity. The WTO TFA also refers to bilateral and regional mutual administrative assistance agreements, which are still the main instrument for governments and Customs administrations to engage in such cooperation. Customs cooperation also takes place at the international level through the World Customs Organization by establishing international Customs standards and harmonized procedures and by providing training and technical assistance to build the capacity of Customs to use these new instruments.
Customs cooperation and mutual administrative assistance can play an important role in facilitating trade, as they are a major control element enabling Customs administrations to apply international settlements such as the WTO Valuation Agreement or the Agreement on the Rules of Origin.