ICC Recommendations on Illicit Trade in Free Trade Zones (FTZs)

Free Trade Zones (FTZs) can play an important role in fostering trade flows and attracting local and foreign investment. However, the lack of oversight in a large number of FTZs have allowed for organized criminals to facilitate illicit trade flows in narcotics and counterfeited, pirated or stolen goods. Due to high profits yielded, low risks of detection and relatively low penalties, without appropriate Customs supervision these zones are easy targets for organized crime and illicit trade.

ICC calls upon all countries to accede to the World Customs Organization (WCO) Revised Kyoto Convention specific Annex on FTZs, which states that FTZs are only outside of the Customs’ jurisdiction insofar as duties and taxes are concerned.

Customs administrations across the world have different and often disparate regulatory standards for FTZs.  A common approach towards the administration of FTZs is vital to ensure that FTZs foster legitimate trade flows and economic growth and do not become ‘hotspots’ for illicit trade and organized crime.

In this context, ICC encourages Customs and FTZ operators to work more closely together and underlines the importance of risk assessment procedures. Information sharing is an effective way to reduce the amount of hidden or incorrect shipping information for goods coming into the FTZ.

Member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are urged to implement the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). Article 7 of the Agreement provides the opportunity to strengthen the capacity of Customs administrations – most notably in developing countries – to put in place effective risk assessment procedures that facilitate trade while ensuring compliance with Customs and other related laws and regulations.

Furthermore, ICC calls upon the World Free Zone Organization to further promote best practices for regulatory standards for FTZs that foster legitimate trade flows and foreign direct investment while safeguarding supply chain security.