What is the Difference Between the WHO, C-TPAT, NEEC, and AEO?

There seem to be a lot of different organizations overseeing trade patterns and regulations.  What is the distinction between them?

In the past, the main focus of customs efforts was devoted to collecting appropriate duties on goods traded.  In light of current concerns about the safety and security of goods in the supply chain, the focus has broadened to include the creation of standards and regulations for securing and facilitating safe trade.

The WCO (World Customs Organization) is the governing body for most countries with regard to customs issues. The WCO has developed a framework of standards to secure trade along the supply line, using the acronym SAFE.  Countries are evaluated by the WCO to measure their level of adherence to safe standards, recordkeeping, and proper inspections of goods along the supply chain.  Entities that the WCO has evaluated and deemed capable of safely and securely dealing in the international movement of goods are given the designation AEO, Authorized Economic Operator.

The list of WCO member countries that have instituted AEO programs is lengthy and includes the US, China, Canada, Israel, Mexico, India, many Central and South American countries, and several African nations.   Many countries set up their own programs and develop their own standards for brokers, distributors, manufacturers, importers, and exporters to follow when conducting international trade matters.  The US runs its own program under the title C-TPAT (the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism), while the EU has its own AEO program.  Mexico’s program for safe trade goes under the acronym NEEC (Nuevo Esquema de Empresas Certificadas).

Regardless what terms are used, the goal is the same:  once a country can be trusted to have high quality programs in place to ensure goods are not tampered with by the various parties handling the movement of goods along the supply chain, customs inspections can be reduced or streamlined so that goods can move safely and swiftly from country to country.  Customs officers are then freed up to spend their time scrutinizing shipments of cargo from unknown or potentially unsafe operators.

Suzanne DeCuir, Global Trade Expertise