I thought it was Dubai not Brussels

Well, today is the start of my WCO training visit to Brussels, and I arrived last night at around 8.30pm ready for a 9am start this morning, and to be honest I thought I was in Dubai and not Brussels as the temperature today has been 32 degrees. Thankfully the WCO headquarters is just around the corner from the hotel so I didn’t have far to walk in a suit and tie. See the photo of me outside the entrance to the WCO. It may look as though I have a miserable face, but it is so hot outside and I had just been for a quick walk outside at lunchtime to get a sandwich---- honest.

The WCO is a great place, and everyone made you feel very welcome on arrival with tea and coffee, etc.  There were two different courses on at the same time, and I was in the Rules of Origin course, so this is when  then the fun starts as people didn’t know what course they had signed up for. Glad to say I was not one of them, I was in the right place. What is good to understand is that there are delegates from all over the world and a large number are from African countries, plus several from India and Sri Lanka.

Kick off was then at 9.30am with an introduction from Mr Ping Liu, Director  for Trade and Tariff affairs at the WCO and he gave a talk on the introduction to the rules of origin and their economic implications, with the ongoing issues discussed at global level including the WTO Ministerial Decision for LDC’s.

This took up most of the morning, and I did see a couple of Indian guys nodding off towards, but I think this was more because of the jet lag than anything else, but you can draw your own conclusion.

We were all then addressed by the Secretary General for the WCO Mr Kunio Mikuriya and his senior Directors as per the picture at the top, but after that there was a group photo on the stairs for some reason, and I managed to get a prime spot, so when this is out I will pass it on.

The rest of day 1 was presented by Mette Azzam, and she is a Senior Technical Officer dealing with Tariff and Trade Affairs for the WCO, and we briefly went through the Rules of Origin along with FTA’s, for which I was amazed to be told that there are over 300 FTA’s worldwide. We then completed some practical exercises with lots of Q +A’s.

There was a lot of discussion from delegates from the African countries, and as they speak French you have to put your earpiece in for the translators sitting above us to translate into English. If you have never done it before it is a little weird for the first time until you get used to it, because whilst the delegate and speaker have finished their conversation, you have to wait until the interpreter has then finished, so it is like watching a film where the sound does not match the movement of the mouth, and then if you wanted to speak, you have to press a button and speak into a Microphone.

It is also a small world as I met up with Tim Bailey who is the International Trade Director  from the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, and whilst we were “mingling” Tim was telling other delegates that if you want good high level training, then give S&H a call. Tim is such a nice guy and it is good to know we have a great name out there.

Day one has now finished and the heat is unbelievable, so I have just picked up some strawberries from the supermarket next door to the hotel  to enjoy whilst I sit and watch a bit of TV and before you ask there is no Champagne just fizzy water.

I will let you know what day 2 is like tomorrow.

Written by Calvin Sherratt Customs & International Trade Advisor Strong & Herd 19 June 2017

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