A WCO Asia/Pacific Regional Train-the-Trainer Workshop for the Joint Enforcement Action against Counterfeiting and Piracy in the Asia/Pacific Region (Action IPR A/P)
Reported by Ms. Aki KOBAYASHI
WCO Accredited Expert
Senior Inspector, Japan Customs
A WCO Asia/Pacific Regional Train-the-Trainer Workshop for the Joint Enforcement Action against Counterfeiting and Piracy in the Asia/Pacific Region (Action IPR A/P), under the sponsorship of the Japanese Customs Co-operation Fund (CCF/Japan), took place from 21 to 23 September 2015 at the Akademi Kastam Diraja Malaysia (Royal Malaysian Customs Academy - AKMAL).
“Action IPR A/P” will be the first operational activity on intellectual property rights (IPRs) for the Asia/Pacific Region. It is being planned and initiated by the WCO Secretariat, in response to a proposal made by the Royal Malaysian Customs Department in its capacity as Vice-Chair for the Asia/Pacific Region. The Workshop was conducted to train the officers of participating Member administrations to take the lead in the actual operational phase, scheduled for late autumn 2015. The Train-the-Trainer Workshop was attended by 30 participants from 23 Member administrations and I was honoured to take part as the Accredited Expert in IPR, covering the health and safety field.
The two-and-a-half-day meeting was extremely intensive. After briefly reviewing the scope, objectives and the reporting process of the upcoming operation, the Workshop followed up with various practical and informative sessions, including ongoing regional capacity building efforts by the Regional Office for Capacity Building for Asia/Pacific (ROCB A/P), how to use WCO tools such as the CENcomm and IPM, and how to maintain good relationships with Right Holders, to name but a few. Some of the sessions were delivered by Mr. Kang-sik Cho from the ROCB A/P and Ms. Hyun-jin Oh from the Regional Intelligence Liaison Office (RILO) A/P. In my role as the Accredited Expert, I talked about the importance of risk-based targeting in the IPR context, followed by a brief exercise session. From the floor, good practices were kindly shared by our colleagues from China, Vietnam and Japan.
Partners from industry also played an important role during the Workshop. The whole afternoon of DAY 2 was dedicated to a training course given by eight Right Holders. It might not sound like much (considering the countless trademarks and copyrights that Customs have to deal with at borders), but the good news about Action IPR A/P is that Right Holders are able to assist by submitting their contact points list for sharing among Members via the CENcomm. Although the number of speakers representing Right Holders present at the Workshop was small, co-operative relationships such as this are being fostered.
The Workshop was indeed a very brief one and all the participants (including the team of experts) would have preferred it to last longer. Nonetheless, there was just enough time to inspire Members and encourage them to start working on this upcoming major event, namely Action IPR A/P. As an IPR Expert, I strongly believe that raising awareness of the negative impacts of counterfeiting is critical in order to move Customs forward. Who could FAIL to take action after becoming aware that illicit products, such as counterfeit medicines, batteries and vehicle parts, could endanger people’s health and safety as counterfeit goods often disregard safety standards or contain harmful ingredients? Customs plays an indispensable role in protecting consumers at the border, as one of the key law enforcement agencies fighting counterfeiting and piracy. Customs is the sole agency that can keep such goods at bay and prevent them entering the local market.
The Workshop was a great success due to the participants’ proactive attitude. I was very proud of their positive attitude when addressing the issues. I am sure the participants will maintain their efforts in readiness for the operation and will report their experiences, as this is essential in enabling the WCO to conduct a post-seizure analysis and will lead to future improvements in its enforcement actions.
I cannot conclude without mentioning the hard work by and professional support from AKMAL staff members in hosting this Workshop, despite their busy schedules. I also valued the expertise of the other facilitators who encouraged the participants throughout this Workshop. I do hope to have another opportunity to work with my colleagues in the A/P Region in near future. In the meantime, I would like to learn and experience more through the sharing of good practices in this field.
Japan Customs, as an active donor, will further enhance capacity building activities, which have been carried out for a long time.