23 November 2023


CLECAT and the European Shippers Council organised their second Logistics for Europe event on the 16th of November in Brussels to debate the EU Customs Reform and the need for trade to adopt sustainable and transparent sourcing practices, marked by new reporting standards.

Welcoming participants, Mr van der Schalk, President of CLECAT reflected on business concerns on EU's competitiveness with the regulatory pressure on business mounting whilst remaining dependent on complex value and supply chains. Legislative measures are compelling shippers and freight forwarders to report not only on their financials, but also on social and environmental aspects when engaging in global sourcing. This calls for increased collaboration between shippers and service providers within the logistics supply chains. 

The event gained insights from Rem Korteweg from the Clingendael Institute on the impact of the geopolitical events on global trade. Evidence that producers have started reorienting their supply chains can be found in the steadily declining share of imports and trade in the Gross National Product of countries. Investment flows are changing. Mr Korteweg argued that globalisation is not ceasing but undergoing a transformation, which also includes a shift in terms of norms. This is notably visible in the European Union's implementation of new trade strategies that encompass both defensive and offensive trade instruments, as well as non-trade instruments that impact trade such as the CBAM and the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive. These developments also offer opportunities for the transport and logistics sector, because if companies spread their supply chains across multiple countries, it means an increase in trade. In conclusion, Mr Korteweg noted that the landscape becomes more complicated, more disputed, and more expensive. We have had very cheap access to all products and markets from around the world for many years. That time is over.

In the panel on the EU Customs reform Dimitri Serafimoff, chair of CLECAT's customs' Institute raised some of CLECAT concerns with the proposal.  He highlighted CLECAT is advocating for the preservation of existing customs facilitations for companies who, in the future, might not qualify as AEOs or Trust and Check traders through their customs representatives. Many, especially the SMEs, outsource their customs work because they lack the resources or infrastructure to handle it internally. These companies often don't seek customs authorisations, relying instead on their brokers. The proposed reform, by making Trust and Check status a prerequisite for all future facilitations and at the same time limiting the scope of customs representation, could eliminate this option

Additionally, Mr Serafimoff raised concerns about non-fiscal obligations. He highlighted the increasing challenges, such as those evident with CBAM reporting, where many customs representatives are declining to assume responsibility due to the unavailability of reliable and compliant. data. Also, Ms Lindenhovius from Wilmar Europe acknowledged that although she supports the main objective of the Customs Reform, she finds certain aspects of its practical implementation unclear. She suggested that the legislators may not have fully grasped the complexity of the supply chain. She cited the example of multiple changes in ownership of the incoming cargo en-route and also stated that most trading companies will not being willing to compromise their competitive advantage by sharing commercially sensitive information.

A second session of the conference was dedicated to the new sustainability reporting requirements and their impact on businesses, addressing associated risks and limits. Dr Klaus Hufschlag from DHL Group highlighted the transformative effects of new reporting requirements, emphasizing the need for companies to adapt their systems and to collaborate with supply chain partners to meet these new obligations. He noted that companies, both large and progressively smaller, face a paradigm shift in their systems to generate the requisite data for compliance. Challenges like data scarcity and undue burdens on SMEs limit the successful implementation of the new sustainability reporting standards.

A full summary of the event will be published soon.