CHAPTER 13. In Conclusion

Michael Keen
Published Date:
October 2003
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Michael Keen

The position of customs officer may not be quite the oldest profession in the world, but its lineage is ancient: the Bible refers to a customs collector called Zacchaeus153 (who was corrupt but, happily, reformed). And the profession is still in a state of change—perhaps more so, indeed, than ever.

As we have seen in this book, customs administrations face a range of pressing challenges: securing revenues in the face of continued expansion in the volume of trade and the complications associated with regional trade agreements, rooting out corruption, coping with rapid changes in ways of doing business, and serving the wide range of nonrevenue functions still expected of them—all while seeking to minimize obstacles to legitimate trade. Adding to these challenges is the renewed awareness of the interdiction role of customs after September 11, 2001. The immediate reaction to these events was an increase in the intensity of physical inspections—witness the long lines at the U.S.-Canada border in the days following those events. These renewed concerns might seem at first to run counter to the developments urged in this book, which seek to move away from heavy reliance on physical inspection. But better ways will need to be found to reconcile intensified security concerns with the need to facilitate trade, and this is likely to mean more rather than less reliance on the methods discussed in the book—more effective methods of risk assessment and more efficient exchange of information between the private sector and customs administration, and among customs administrations in different countries.

What makes these challenges particularly daunting is the wide range of responses they require: in procedures, legislation, organizational structures and incentives, the use of information technology, and relations with—and use of—the private sector. They also require resources, though in many cases it is not money but commitment that has been lacking. While it is hard to quantify with any accuracy the potential benefits of modernizing customs administration—they are hard to disentangle from the myriad of other effects on customs revenue and collection costs—there is ample experience of the improvements that can be made in raising revenue and facilitating trade. The purpose of this book has been to give a firm sense of the practical steps needed to realize them.


Luke 19:1–10.

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