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Brussels, 22nd April 2004

Customs: Commission welcomes signature of agreement with United States on expanding co-operation to trade security

The signature of an agreement to extend the EU/US Customs Agreement to include trade security co-operation has been welcomed by the European Commission. The new agreement was signed in Washington on 22nd April 2004 by the Irish Minister of Finance, Charlie McCreevy, on behalf of the EU's Council of Ministers and by US Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. The agreement aims to improve cargo security on a reciprocal basis for both the EU and the US, whilst ensuring equal treatment of US and EU ports and operators. For example, the new agreement will provide for the exchange of relevant information and best practices and the establishment of common standards of risk assessment, inspection and screening methods.

"This is an important step forward", commented European Commissioner for Customs Frits Bolkestein. "Together, the EU and the US will be in a position to deliver a major contribution to ensuring that trade can take place in a secure environment on the basis of reciprocity."

The agreement, which the Commission has negotiated with the US on behalf of the European Union, complements US initiatives launched after the attacks of 11th September 2001 to integrate security checks in normal customs controls before goods leave a country. The reciprocal agreement also covers the security of cargo containers from all locations that are imported into, transhipped through, or transit the EU and the US. The Commission fully shares US concerns about improving cargo security and considers that the most effective means to meet these concerns is by co-operation at EU level with the US. The new agreement is based on the principle that substantially greater security of legitimate trade can be achieved through a system where the customs authority of the importing country works collaboratively with customs authorities involved in earlier parts of the supply chain to use timely information and inspection technology to target and screen high-risk containers before they are shipped from their ports or places of loading or transhipment.

The new agreement prevents differential treatment of Member States and trade diversion within the EC. The agreement will also ensure that legitimate transatlantic trade is not hindered by the increased security arrangements and that control standards are equal for US and EC operators.

The new agreement expands the existing Agreement between the EU and the US on customs co-operation and mutual assistance in customs matters (CMAA), which was signed on 28 May 1997. While the 1997 Agreement focussed on classical customs co-operation, the expanded Agreement covers also co-operation in securing the logistical chain in international trade.

The new agreement establishes a working group that will elaborate the necessary operational elements of expanded co-operation (see Annex). The EC-US Joint Customs Co-operation Committee, meeting after the signing ceremony, decided to officially launch the working groups and to have the first meeting of customs experts from the US, EU Member States and the Commission in early May 2004.

The EU's Council of Ministers authorised the Commission to negotiate with the US on transport security co-operation on 18th March 2003 (see IP/03/399). The agreement was initialled by the European Commission's Taxation and Customs Union Director General Robert Verrue and US Ambassador to the EU Rockwell Schnabel on 18th November 2003 (see IP/03/1565). The Council adopted by unanimity on 30th March 2004 the decision which enabled formal conclusion of the agreement on 22nd April 2004.

For further information see the Europa website at:

Annex to the Agreement between the European Community and the United States of America on intensifying and broadening the CMAA to include co-operation on Container Security and Related Matters

The Working Group created under Paragraph 5 of the Agreement between the European Community and the United States of America on intensifying and broadening the CMAA to include co-operation on Container Security and Related Matters will examine and make recommendations on issues including, but not limited to, the following areas of co-operation between U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Customs authorities in the European Community with a view to ensuring that general customs controls of international trade take due account of security concerns:

    defining minimum standards, in particular in view of participating in CSI, and recommending methods by which those standards may be met

    identifying and broadening the application of best practices concerning security controls of international trade, especially those developed under CSI

    defining and establishing standards to the greatest extent practicable for the information required to identify high-risk shipments imported into, transhipped through, or transiting the United States and the European Community

    improving and establishing standards to the greatest extent practicable for targeting and screening such high-risk shipments, to include information exchange, the use of automated targeting systems, and the development of minimum standards for inspection technologies and screening methodologies

    improving and establishing standards to the greatest extent practicable for industry partnership-programs designed to improve supply chain security and facilitate the movement of legitimate trade

    identifying any regulatory or legislative changes that would be necessary to implement the recommendations of the Working Group; and

    considering the type of documents and measures further implementing the intensified and broadened customs co-operation on the issues set out in this Annex.

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