By Christina Bell, Senior Advisor, Office of International Affairs, U.S. Customs and Border Protection
On June 25, 2022, CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus announced his intent to nominate Mr. Ian Saunders as the U.S. candidate to stand for election as Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO). With the election taking place in June 2023, Saunders is keenly focused on engaging with global customs and trade partners to understand important issues and opportunities for the future of the WCO. He views his intended candidacy as a high calling for service to his country and to the global customs community. Although Saunders widely known within the global customs community, with more than 30 years of experience in customs and international trade, he wants to ensure he is able to benefit from the latest thinking from customs administrations across all WCO regions.
Saunders had a unique opportunity in September 2022 to engage with a number of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (or “ASEAN”) partners at the Southeast Asia Export Control Forum, which took place in the WCO’s Asia Pacific region. The event was sponsored by the U.S. Government with support from several international partners and hosted by Singapore. Participating in the Women in Strategic Trade Control (or “WIST”) event that was convened in conjunction with the Summit, he had the opportunity to learn from talented women across the export control community. This represented an important opportunity for him given the importance of the Gender Equality in Customs Working Group within the WCO. At the Export Control Forum, Saunders expertly led a panel on transit and transshipment trends and challenges.
While at the event in Singapore, Saunders was warmly welcomed by U.S. Ambassador to Singapore, Jonathan Kaplan, and his Country Team.
At the American Chamber of Commerce – Singapore “Fireside Chat” with senior U.S. and Singapore officials and the private sector, Saunders’ candidacy was illuminated by the Department of Commerce’s Assistant Secretary for Global Markets Arun Venkataraman in his opening remarks.
On the margins of the export control events in Singapore, Saunders had the opportunity to conduct several meaningful bilateral meetings with customs and trade officials from Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. He introduced himself and listened to their insights, ideas, and recommendations to advance priority global customs and trade issues. “I am grateful for the opportunity I had to meet with, and learn from, so many officials committed to improving safety and security in international trade,” Saunders said of his trip.
Mr. Saunders also had the opportunity to attend the celebration at the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore commemorating the 77th anniversary of that country’s independence. It was a remarkable event and a wonderful occasion to connect with Indonesian and other officials.
As he moves forward into the coming months, Saunders is very much looking forward to continued engagements with customs and trade leaders and experts from across the WCO regions.