Yesterday I visited the 23rd Caspian Oil & Gas Exhibition and Conference in Baku. This is one of the leading commodity events in the world and a large number of countries were represented at the conference and exhibition.

His Excellence President Ilham Aliyev opened the event in the Baku Congress Center with an interesting speech about the development and modernization of the oil industry of the Republic of Azerbaijan. 

President Aliyev giving his address for VIP invited guests

President Barack Obama of the United States of America and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom had both sent personal statements that were presented by their Ministers present at the opening ceremony

President Aliyev visiting the exhibition

More than 1000 people from 40 countries all around the world visiting the event. 

From a Customs perspective this is a very important area, since export and knport of oil and gas represents huge values for global trade and the international supply chain. As an example, more than 90% of the export from the Republic of Azerbaijan is oil. Many other oil and gas producing countries have similar numbers. 

Always great to be VIP.

Even though the Government of Azerbaijan is trying to diversify the economy and increase the production and export of other products and services, the oil and gas industry will be the basis of the economy for decades to come. 

The export of oil and gas is also a pre-requirement for the global production in many countries. Even though most countries are trying to diversify their use of different energy sources and move to more environment friendly systems, we will have oil and gas dependency for many to come.

The prodiction and trading systems of these types of products thus have to be as environment friendly and effiecient as possible, just like the transfer and movement of these commodities. 

During the speech of the President

It is important for Customs to understand the oil and gas industry, how it works and how to manage the trade – so we can all contribute to safe and efficent export and import of energy products.
I learned a lot of new things these days.

With my friend Mikhail Khashubsky, Head of INCU, where I am an Advisory Bord Member

It was a very interesting experience to learn more about the oil and gas industry and their concerns in relation to international trade and Customs.

This week Sweden hosts an international meeting, the 2nd World Customs Organization (WCO) Europe Regional Workshop on Implementation of the WTO – Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

Joakim Reiter, Deputy Secretary-General UNCTAD, Anna Stellinger DG National Board of Trade, Eva Walder DG Trade MinIstry of Foreigh Affairs, Therese Mattsson DG Swedish Customs and Antonis Kastrissianakis Director EU Commission, Taxud

Participants from over 40 countries are in Stockholm to share experiences and learn from each other about how best to simplify trade and customs. 

“For Swedish export, it is hugely important, not only to ourselves, but also that our many trading partners have efficient trade procedures”,  said Swedish EU and Trade Minister Ann Linde in a comment. 

“Therefore, it is natural for us to support this work, not only as a part of our export strategy, but also as part of our efforts to help developing countries grow and increase living standards through trade development”.
The background is the World Trade Organization (WTO) new agreement on trade facilitation (TFA). The agreement is the biggest success in the recent WTO negotiations and is expected to bring considerable economic impact globally. 
The agreement is designed to facilitate trade through the use of modern technology, reducing processing times at border crossings with the implementation of modern models.

The Director General of Swedish Customs, Therese Mattsson at the conference opening ceremony this morning

European Union introduced in May 2016 a new modernized customs legislation that meets the new requirements of the WTO Agreement. 
Sweden and the EU’s role at the meeting in Stockholm is to support countries from including the Caucasus and Central Asia to implement the agreement.
“It is extremely important for Swedish exports that not just we, but also our trade partners, have efficient trade procedures,” says Minister for EU Affairs and Trade Ann Linde. 

Ann Linde, Swedish Trade Minister 

“For this reason, it is natural for us to support these efforts, not just as part of our export strategy, but also as part of our endeavour to help poorer countries develop through trade.”

The background is the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) new Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). The TFA has been the greatest success in recent years of WTO negotiations, and is the agreement in the WTO expected to have the greatest economic impact, mainly for poorer countries. Under the TFA, unnecessary document requirements will be removed and modern technology will be applied, which will reduce processing times at border crossings and the risk of corruption, facilitating trade between the countries now implementing the agreement. As far as the EU is concerned, new and modernised customs legislation that meets the new requirements of the TFA has been in place since May 2016. The role of Sweden and the EU at the meeting in Stockholm is to support countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia implement the agreement.
“Sweden has an important role to play both for the transfer of expertise in the customs area and in the discussions on development aid that will be important in the meeting,” says Director-General for Trade Eva Walder.

“Sweden is seen as a leader with regard to simple customs procedures, and many of the customs simplifications in the WTO agreement were produced by Swedish Customs. Sweden is also one of the largest donors of development aid to help countries implement the WTO agreement.”

The meeting will take place in Stockholm on 1–3 June. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Swedish Customs and the National Board of Trade will host the meeting in Sweden, which is being organised together with the European Commission. The participants at the meeting come from the World Customs Organisation’s Europe region, which consists of 52 countries, from Russia in the north to Israel in the south.

Yesterday evening after flying in to Baku from Istanbul – where I had a good meeting during the day – I found some friends in the hotel and we had a dinner to catch-up.

With Mikhail Kashubsky & Dilavar Farzaliev

I have been many times in Azerbaijan. The Azeri people always offer outstanding world class hospitality. 

It is always a pleasure to be here.