Sweden arranged the 2nd WCO Europe Regional WorkShop on implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement in Stockholm this week. 

Joakim Reiter, Deputy Secretary General of UNCTAD spoke at the opening of the workshop

During two days Trade Facilitation was in the center of the discussion between representatives from forty countries, European Union, WCO, UNCTAD, WorldBank and a wide range of other organizations.

Another of the high-level speakers at the Conference was Mr. Antonis Kastrissianakis from the EU Commission, Taxud. 

We know that trade is what develops our societies. There are many examples. Customs and border agencies are vital leaders and key players in how our borders are managed and monitored. 

Customs is watching over and controlling our borders while we are sleeping, working and living our lives. Customs are always there to keep us safe, 24/7 all days of the year, decade after decade. And have been for centuries. 

So how do we handle the fact that we live in the age of globalization, in a turbolent world of crises?

 Just the last decade we have had security crises, safety crises, commodity prize crises, global financial crises, political crises and now a refugee crise. And we we are just in the beginning of this era. There will be more. 

The answer is trade facilitation. We need to design, develop and implement smart, risk based systems and programmes to monitor the international trade supply chain in totally new ways. Global trade will bring us together and develop our economies. However it needs to be done in a transparent way where all countries have fair market access. We need to make it work this time. 

Like in every development there is (as always) good news and bad news. The bad news is that it will be worse before it gets better.

The good news is that we know how to do it, now we just have to do it on the ground instead of only talking about it. And we will. 

The Wall Street fictionary charachter Gordon Gecco (played by Michael Douglas) once said that ‘greed is good’. I think it is not. But Trade Facilitation is. 

So it is time to launch a new paradigm,  the New Trade Facilitation Model – with responsible simplifications and facilitation systems solving the challanges for all stakeholders. 

We have the instruments, we have the experience – today we know how to do efficient capacity building and implementation. 

The future belongs to the optimists. 

A UAE businessman bought a car registration plate bearing just the number ‘one’ at an auction. The car plste number was sold for AED18m (£3.4m).


The winning bidder, Emirati businessman Arif Ahmed al-Zarouni, told Gulf News: “My ambition is always to be number one”, UK Newspaper The Guardian reports.


I really like this vision and ambition that I often meet in United Arab Emirates. The wish to be the best. This is an important driver of development. 

You can read the entire article here (click on the link): Number One

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven invites world leaders to a global refugee summit with President Barack Obama in September. 


“There is a recognition internationally of the Swedish strategy in this field”, says Prime Minister Stefan Löfven in a press release today. Other co-organizers of the Refugee Summit will be the Heads of State from Germany, Ethiopia, Jordan, Canada and Mexiko.


A massive numbers of refugees are today in the hands of dangerous and illegal smuggling network in search of safety; millions more are facing a long-term dependence on first asylum countries without access to legal employment and education. These are challenges that need to be addressed”said Susan Rice responsible for the matters in the Obama administration. “At the Refugee Summit important commitments will be presented”.


According to the White House, there are serious global discussions of “ambitious and challenging targets” as a 30 percent increase in funding for international humanitarian organizations and a doubling of the global number of resettled refugees and increasing the number of refugees who go to school around the world with one million.


Earlier this week US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power from the Permanent Representatives of the United Nations – met with representatives from the organizing countries, namely; Sweden, Germany, Canada, Ethiopia, Jordan, Mexico and the UN Secretary General to prepare the summit. 


This is a great initiative show that there are countries in the world that are ready to take responsibility for people in great need. This initiative brings hope to the most vulnerable of people.

Sweden has regained its position as the most competitive economy in the European Union and is now the fifth most competitive in the world, according to a report by a leading Swiss business school.

The 2016 edition of the IMD World Competitiveness rankings shows that only Singapore, the USA, Switzerland and China Hong Kong have a more competitive economy than the Swedes, while no nation within the EU currently fares better.

Particularly impressive was non-EU member Switzerland’s position, with the country of only eight million residents placing second in the table, making it the most competitive in Europe. China Hong Kong claimed top spot meanwhile, leapfrogging the USA which dropped from first to third after leading for three successive years.

“The common pattern among all the countries in the top-20 is their focus on business-friendly regulation, physical and intangible infrastructure and inclusive institution,” said IMD World Competitiveness Center director Arturo Bris in a statement.

In western Europe the ongoing post-financial crisis recovery of the public sector was also highlighted as a key driver of improvement.
The Lausanne-based IMD has published its prestigious rankings every year since 1989, which it claims are widely regarded as the foremost annual assessment of the competitiveness of countries.

Each ranking is based on the analysis of over 340 criteria derived from the four principal factors of economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency and infrastructure.

Also taken into consideration are responses from a survey of more than 5,400 business executives, who are asked to assess the situation in their home countries.

Last year Sweden dropped four places from fifth to ninth in the table, with the slip attributed to a relatively high unemployment rate and high taxes.

The return to the number five spot in 2016 is a boost for the Nordic nation, which has recently seen overall unemployment drop to 4.7 percent, its lowest since the global financial crisis in 2008.

Sweden ranked comfortably higher in the 2016 competitiveness rankings than European giants like Germany (12th) and the United Kingdom (18th), a further example of its ability to punch above its weight, following on from Statistics Sweden’s release of new figures that show the smaller nation’s GDP is growing at a greater rate than larger European counterparts. It is going good for Sweden! 

Yesterday I visited the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) for meetings. 


I also attended a Reception in the beautiful Ministry of Foreign Affairs palace on the occasion of an international meeting held in Stockholm, namely the 2nd WCO Europe Regional Workshop on Implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). 

The Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs is located in a historic building called ‘The Hereditary Prince’s Palace’ (Arvfurstens Palats) in the very center of Stockholm. It is a beautiful location close to the Royal Palace and the Royal Swedish Opera House. For a very long time it was used by the Royal family. Since 1906 it is the home of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the closest MFA administration.

It was great to meet many old colleagues and friends from the Customs world at this meeting and reception. 

Sweden is the country in the world that makes the greatest contributions to the world and to mankind, according to the latest ranking ‘The Good Country Index’.

“Sweden is outdtanding when it comes to thinking about the rest of the world” says Simon Anholt spokesperson for the index. 

The Good Country Index is a list that ranks countries according to what efforts they make to the world and it measures all countries based on 35 indicators and with data from the United Nations and the World Bank.

In the latest edition of the index, Sweden ranks in the top as number one – the country that, relative to its size, is most contributing and generous of others of all countries in the world.

Sweden is followed by Denmark and the Netherlands. 


The index assesses all countries in seven different areas, namely; science and technology, culture, international peace and security, international order, the planet & the climate, prosperity & equality and health & wellbeing. 

Sweden scored highest in the two categories. “To be number one in two categories is pretty amazing”, says Simon Anholt to media.

‘Health & wellbeing’ covers things that contribute to stopping the pandemic and to send doctors to the international health disasters. ‘Prosperity & equality’ is mainly about international trade.

If you want to read more about the survey and thenkndex, click here: The Good Country Index