Mike Bing, Diageo: How The Customs Ecosystem is Rapidly Changing Before Us

Dear Colleague, I am delighted to invite you to join me at C5’s Global Customs Compliance Forum on March 27th-28th, 2018, in Brussels. In my 35-year career in Customs, I don’t believe I’ve ever stood before a crossroads such as the one we face in the coming 24 months. From Brexit to the geopolitical situation in the world, the Customs ecosystem is rapidly changing before our very eyes. Throughout the course of my career, acting as a Customs officer, my work for freight forwarders and Customs brokers and now for multinational industrial and consumer product companies, I have never seen the pace of change this furious. It is not that the key areas of Customs compliance have changed. Tariff classification and valuation have always seen evolutionary changes. New trade agreements have impacted our understanding of origin with ample pre-warning. The concept of trusted trader introduced post 9/11, as well as the thinking around trade facilitation, were certainly new and challenging but we’ve always been able to take our time adjusting and developing our understanding of these issues. Brexit is the first time in history when we will be required to deal with the fallout of an important member state leaving the EU. This creates a challenging situation, as we deal with economies which have become so integrated over time that the very concept of ‘3rd country trade’ itself will need to be reconsidered. The ongoing implementation of BEPS legislation around the globe has focused our view on value-chains in quite a different way than we have addressed valuation over the past decades. While the needs of developing countries to generate revenue, grow their economies and satisfy the needs of their population will also inevitably lead to sweeping changes in existing business processes. The security situation around the globe has not improved a great deal and there is an ever increasing emphasis on ensuring a safe supply-chain. While at the same time, we must guarantee that our businesses do not inadvertently support countries and/or entities which threaten world peace. In the middle of all that change, we want to; pursue our legitimate business goals, grown our own revenue, satisfy our shareholders and continue to operate in a lawful and responsible manner. That requires an investment in knowledge. We can no longer trust our existing mechanisms to deal with these changes. Customs came into existence hundreds of years ago merely as a means to generate revenue for towns, and later countries. Now, we recognise that it is no longer about the financial impact alone but also about being good corporate citizens. Reputational disasters take years to recover from. I believe this is an area where Customs and Trade experts, especially in-house, can add huge value beyond the purely legal or tax based views. This all makes it a very exciting, and challenging, time to be working in Global Trade Management and, especially, Customs. The C5 Global Customs Compliance event is designed to provide a platform where Customs and GTM practitioners meet both their peers as well as representatives of national revenue authorities and supranational institutes such as the ICC, WCO and EU Commission to discuss evolving issues, to share best practices and learnings, and to better understand the emerging challenges. It is intended to be very much a collaborative and high engaged event which I believe will be of real value to you and your practice. I very much hope to see you there! Kind regards, Mike Bing Associate Director of Customs, Global Indirect Tax, Diageo