From 14-18 April 2024, Australian Border Force (ABF) Commissioner and Comptroller-General of Customs, Michael Outram APM hosted the 25th Regional Heads of Customs Administrations (RHCA) Conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney, Australia. Commissioner Outram chaired the meeting in his capacity as the World Customs Organization (WCO) Asia/Pacific Regional Vice-Chair (APVC). This was the fourth and final formal event of the Asia/Pacific Regional Customs for Commissioner Outram since commencing his two-year tenure as the APVC in July 2022.

The event commenced with a welcome reception at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Circular Quay and an observance of a traditional ‘welcome to country’ and ‘smoking ceremony’ performed by indigenous Australians from the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation.  Commissioner Outram welcomed members at the official opening of the 25th RHCA and was joined by the WCO Secretary General, Mr Ian Saunders. The event welcomed 108 in-person and online delegates from 31 Asia/Pacific WCO Member Customs Administrations, including the Heads of Member Customs administrations, the Regional Intelligence Liaison Office (RILO A/P), the Regional Office of Capacity Building (ROCB A/P), the Regional Private Sector Group (RPSG A/P) and their respective delegations.

Commissioner Outram noted that “the conference allows us to gather our Regional Heads and senior executive in a forum that provides us with the understanding, respective positions and ideas that we can bring forward as a Region to the WCO and this collective voice is critical to the Asia/Pacific’s contribution to the WCO and its Members and I’m very proud of the contribution we make as a Region”.

Delegates participated in a range of discussions, exchanging ideas on various strategic and operational customs and border-related issues. Members endorsed Cambodia’s proposal to accredit their National Customs School as a WCO Regional Training Centre; supported India’s proposal to attach a third Customs Training Centre to their already existing Regional Training Centre; endorsed the draft WCO Resolution on Strengthening Customs-Industry Resilience; and endorsed the WCO Asia/Pacific Communique on Gender Equality and Diversity.

Commissioner Outram and his Office of the Asia/Pacific Regional Customs (APRC) looks forward to finalising action items of the 25th RHCA Conference over the coming weeks ahead of the formal handover ceremony of duties and responsibilities to the succeeding APVC, Commissioner of Hong Kong Customs, Ms Louise Ho in the margins of WCO Council in Brussels, Belgium in June 2024. These items include finalisation of the 2024-2025 APRC Regional Strategic Plan (RSP), the RSP Terms of Reference, updates to governance documents, supporting material for the Asia/Pacific Regional Identity and upcoming issues of the Asia/Pacific Customs News.

Commissioner Outram and his Office of the Asia/Pacific Regional Customs (APRC) would like to express appreciation and thanks to all participants at the 25th RHCA for their contribution in stimulating the growth, security, unity and prosperity of our Asia/Pacific Region.