ST JOHNS, Antigua – Antigua and Barbuda is one of the founding signatory countries to a treaty that establishes the Caribbean Customs Organisation (CCO). Some 14 territories formalised the agreement at a meeting in late May of the XLI Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council, which the CCO now replaces.
The meeting took place in Cuba. Antigua and Barbuda was represented by the comptroller of Customs Raju Boddu and director of research and development at Customs, George Brown.
The transition from CCLEC to CCO introduces a broader, strategic and more enterprising vision for the operation of customs entities in the wider Caribbean. Under its mandate, customs administrations will be better positioned to respond to the modern day challenges posed by the ever dynamic global trade.
Boddu acknowledges these challenges and is confident that the new dispensation of a realigned CCO spells major benefits for Antigua and Barbuda.
“The need to reposition the role of Customs as an agency to manage and secure trade facilitation, intensify border security, and maximise revenues, all in equal measure, given the regional and hemispheric diversities of laws, protocols and administrative structures, is a formidable task,” Boddu said.
Against this backdrop, he stated that CCLEC was merely an MoU based organisation lacking the teeth and necessary wherewithal to ensure member states abide by plans and decisions.
“The CCO, being a treaty, is covered under international law and so it now has significant leeway in supporting and harmonising regional initiatives for trade facilitation, border security and revenue enhancements,” Boddu explained.
Another benefit, he revealed, is the legitimacy that the body now has to seek assistance and cooperation from various world bodies on customs matters in the areas of intelligence sharing, trade, and the adoption of best practices.
As the chair of the finance committee, Antigua and Barbuda presented a detailed report on the financial statements and audit report for the current year and presented a budget for 2019-2020.