The code of conduct for free trade zones established by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2019 is an annex of the document entitled “Council Recommendation on the Fight against Illicit Trade: Improving transparency in free trade zones”. 

This is an important reference document, and it its highly recommended to know and understand it; in fact, it is just as important as the “Practical Guide to Free trade Zones” of the World Customs Organization (WCO) of 2020.  The essential question here is to ask oneself, what distance is there between this type of behavior framework and the reality of our free trade zones? Do our current compliance demands go in this direction? Take the time to read them and you will understand one of the benchmarks in this matter. This code of conduct focuses on:

1. Providing unconditional access to the competent authorities, in accordance with their national legislation, to carry out ex officio and unhindered compliance controls of operators in support of investigations regarding violations of applicable laws and regulations.

2. Notifying the competent authorities in advance of any industrial, commercial or service related activity that takes place in the Free Trade Zone.

3. Prohibiting operators and people who do not provide the necessary security of compliance with the applicable customs provisions when carrying out an activity in the Free Zone.

4. Ensuring that active economic operators in the Free Trade Zone maintain detailed digital records of all shipments of goods that enter and leave the area, as well as all goods and services produced within it, sufficient to know what is inside the area at any given time. Digital records must:

4.1 Document the purchase and sale operations of all goods and services that enter and leave the Free Trade Zone, and are delivered to the competent authorities upon request.

4.2 Maintain a complete and accurate record in accordance with national legislation of all business transactions to allow full responsibility for the materials used in the production and assembly processes that can be reconciled with the volume and value of the business transactions. These records must be:

4.2.1 Maintained for a period of at least five years.

4.2.2 Made available to the competent authorities that request it in a timely manner.

4.2.3 Maintained in a format required by the competent authorities, so that it can be used for the preparation of risk profiles by said competent authority.

5. Transmitting in a timely manner to the competent authorities the records and information requested in accordance with national legislation and which must be maintained according to the record-keeping requirements.

6. Ensuring that active economic operators in the Free Trade Zone are obliged to grant access to their detailed digital records at the request of the competent authorities in the jurisdiction where the zone is established.

7. Designating a dedicated point of contact with the skills and resources necessary to respond effectively to such requests for information from the competent authorities.

8. Encouraging electronic payment for any commercial or financial transaction of active economic operators in the Free Trade Zone that occurs within or originating in the Free Trade Zone, and ensure the traceability of cash transactions.

9. Participating in peer learning and dialogues with Adherents to resolve compliance challenges.