Tropical weather and tropical shirts

At the end of day 1 it was so hot in Brussels that thankfully I had packed a pair of shorts and T shirt, so I had a little walk down one of the main shopping streets in Brussels and found the Grand Palace. See photo. I was wondering why most people were sat on the floor and not around the edges on the stonework, until I sat on the granite stone seats myself and had to get up quick as they were so hot you could fry an egg on then them.

Anyway day 2 at the WCO and we are now looking at the complicated world of Customs Valuation and Article V11 of the GATT1994 presented by Ian Cremer, who previously worked for HMRC, Luximan Babajee and Benson Lim.

What was really evident from several of the delegates was that whilst there is guidance on WCO customs valuation, it seems as though it is open to interpretation in different countries, as whilst these are the rules, local customs authorities in some countries are applying different thoughts and methods to circumnavigate the rules laid out in Article V11.

There was much discussion about how Royalties and licence fees are accounted for in the customs valuation at the time of import, and this is where I felt some countries customs departments were interpreting the rules incorrectly. The discussions were interesting as it gave you an insight into how other countries customs were applying a different logic based upon the WCO guidelines, which then took us up to lunchtime.

After lunch we went into a session called Related Party Transactions, which covered Transfer pricing and the use of Transfer pricing within customs valuation. Well this is when a few delegates thought they were at a rock concert as there was a lot of head nodding, but truthfully I was not one of them.

This subject is very intense and is aligned more to delegates who deal in tax law and local VAT regulations, so I can understand if you did not fit into this category, you could soon drift off into a different zone as it is very difficult to grasp the subject and also remain focused.

The final session was presented from a WTO representative on the subject of Challenging a Customs Determination. This was about the right of appeal of article 11 dispute settlement and the role the WTO plays in this area.
Basically from my understanding, this is when a Customs Authority in a particular country does not agree with something in Article V11 of the GATT1994 based upon an import/export  to/from that country, then this is sent up the chain to the WTO.
I was amazed to see the time line it takes for a judgement to be made --- 3 years in most cases, and that is without an appeal.
It was however interesting when a delegate from Indian Customs raised the question “why does it take that long, and what happens during this period when a decision is made by the WTO”. I was equally amazed when the WTO representative answered that it takes this length of time because we have to form a committee of technical people to discuss the issue and make the ruling, and what happens in the meantime ---- Nothing, just carry on what you are doing until a decision is made by the WTO.
Well, if you saw this Indian Customs delegates face, it was classic.  

Finally, it is still very hot and sunny, about 32-34 degrees, but this time most of us were without ties, and one African delegate came in a shirt so bright I had to put my sunglasses on inside. It was so loud that I had to turn up the volume of my earpiece.

The next three days are on the Harmonized System, so my diary may be a little shorter, but you never know. If the guy turns up again in his bright shirt I will take a photo.


Written by Calvin Sherratt Customs & International Trade Advisor Strong & Herd 20 June 2017

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