• Carsten WEERTH
Keywords: World Customs Organization, World Trade Organization, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, International Customs Law, Harmonized System, Customs history, capacity building, economic integration.


   The World Customs Organization (WCO, Organization Mondiale des Dounaes,
OMD) is an intergovernmental organisation that was founded as European Customs Co-
Operation Council in 1952 in Brussels/Belgium. It governs all Customs co-operation matters
from tariff nomenclature, over universal Customs procedures, capacity building and
integrity to trade facilitation. The WCO Membership has risen in different velocities up to an
overall membership of 182 contracting parties in 2017. This paper gives an overview of its
history and legal milestones in an update of 70 years of history of Customs co-operation and
65 years of the Customs Co-Operation Council in Europe and the World. It investigates the
WCO history by help of WCO publications on its history, the accessions over 65 years and
its list of legally binding instruments. The membership rise is investigated by help of a five
year spaced membership accession overview. The ten most successful legally binding
instruments are identified and ranked according to the amount of membership: the three
most successful instruments are identified as the Harmonized System Convention, the
Revised Kyoto Convention and the Istanbul Convention. In an annual overview the
important historic developments of the WCO over the last 65 years are presented. The paper
concludes that the membership has reached a mature phase and that the rise of membership
in the legal instruments is still strong. A current development is that newly emerging states
are also quickly receiving membership status (South Sudan, Palestine, Kosovo, all of which
are not WTO Members). In contrast to the WTO membership (which has risen to 164
contracting parties) some states and economic territories which have previously had an
independent status may have a different WCO membership status (Liechtenstein: WTO + /
WCO -, Taiwan/Chinese Taipei: WTO + / WCO -, Hong Kong & Macao: WTO + / WCO +,
Saint Kitts and Nevis: WTO + / WCO -, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: WTO + / WCO -,
Solomon Islands: WTO + / WCO -, Suriname: WTO + / WCO -).

Author Biography

Carsten WEERTH

Main Customs Office Bremen, Federal Customs Service of Germany
FOM University of Applied Sciences in Economics and Management


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How to Cite
WEERTH, C. (2017). THE WORLD CUSTOMS ORGANIZATION – A HISTORY OF 65 YEARS OF GROWTH AND ITS LEGAL MILESTONES. Customs Scientific Journal CUSTOMS, 7(2), 17-24(engl.); 95. Retrieved from