In December 2022, intended U.S. candidate for the WCO Secretary General Ian Saunders held a number of engagements with senior customs leaders in Bahrain on the margins of the WCO Policy Commission followed by a visit with Federal Customs in the United Arab Emirates. This Middle East trip offered Mr. Saunders the opportunity to have substantive engagements with senior customs leaders from all over the world.
Together with CBP Office of International Affairs Assistant Commissioner Debbie Seguin, Mr. Saunders had meaningful engagements with His Excellency Ahmed Al Khalifa, the President of Bahrain Customs, the Chair of the WCO Council, and the host of the meetings in Bahrain.
During the Policy Commission, Saunders contributed to the discussions on the critical importance of gender and equality in Customs, the activities and priorities of the organization, and opportunities to strengthen the posture of the organization globally, specifically in the area of combating illicit trade.
On the margins of the Policy Commission, he engaged with a number of WCO members to listen to their ideas for strengthening and advancing the WCO. “I am mindful of the need for members to have comfort with me as a U.S. customs and trade professional – as well as with me as a person. This was a terrific opportunity to spend time with members, listen to what is important to them, and to answer their questions,” Saunders said.
Saunders also took advantage of the opportunity to hold bilateral meetings with Customs directors general and other officials to learn more about challenges in their operating environment and their current priorities domestically and within their regions. He looks forward to holding continued listening sessions throughout his campaign.
Transitioning to his visit to the UAE on his return from Bahrain, Saunders had a substantive meeting with the head of UAE Federal Customs to listen to his ideas for progress in the WCO.