Illicit trade

Publications on Illicit Trade

Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade (TF-CIT)

The OECD Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade (TF-CIT) works with governments to better understand the full range of complex risks and threats posed to our global economies.

The TF-CIT focuses on evidence-based research and advanced analytics to assist policy-makers map and understand the market vulnerabilities exploited and created by illicit trade.   


Recommendation on FTZ

The Recommendation on Countering Illicit Trade: Enhancing Transparency in Free Trade Zones was adopted by the OECD Council on 21 October 2019 on the proposal of the Public Governance Committee (PGC). The Recommendation aims to assist governments and policy makers in reducing and deterring illicit trade conducted through and inside Free Trade Zones (FTZs).

The Recommendation is designed to ensure transparency in FTZs and is framed as part of the broader effort to counter illicit trade. It calls on Adherents to encourage FTZ to adopt a voluntary Code of Conduct for Clean Free Trade Zones that is set out in the Appendix to the Recommendation. Compliance with all the provisions of the Code of Conduct will be assessed and monitored by a mechanism (diagnostic tool) to be established within one year after the adoption of the Recommendation.

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Enhancing transparency on Free Trade Zones

Free Trade Zones (FTZs) can offer important economic benefits for host countries and hosted companies, alike, but they can also contribute to trade in fake goods and other illicit activities. FTZs facilitate trade by offering businesses advantageous tariffs and lighter regulation on financing, ownership, labour and immigration, and taxes. They have helped emerging economies to attract foreign investment and generate jobs and growth.

However, OECD evidence shows that the gains from reduced customs presence in FTZs can offer opportunities for illicit trade. There is a risk that, without additional transparency and oversight, the economic benefits from FTZs could be jeopardised. 

To address this issue, the "OECD Recommendation of the Council on Countering Illicit Trade: Enhancing Transparency in Free Trade Zones", is designed to ensure transparency in FTZs and is framed as part of the broader effort to counter illicit trade.

Related documents

Misuse of containerized maritime transport

Traffickers continue to use all available modes of transport for illicit trade. OECD evidence indicates that there are a larger number of individual seizures in small shipments (through air-travel and road transport); however, seizures from commercial maritime container shipping continue to dominate in terms of volume and value of goods seized.

The TF-CIT is currently developing additional empirical evidence about the misuse of container ships in illicit trade, and about the governance and economic drivers as well as policy gaps that enable them.

Role of small parcels in the on-line environment

E-commerce, including transactions involving small parcels purchased online from retail websites or third-party marketplaces, and shipped via express or international postal services, has been intensely misused by traffickers in illicit trade.

High volumes of small parcels and postal packages imported are too numerous to inspect comprehensively for illegal or illicit goods.

The TF-CIT is looking at the recent trends and policy developments on countering misuse of postal and express services. It checks, what standards might be revised to improve international cooperation and public/ private partnerships in the screening of small parcels for illicit goods.

Related documents and initiatives:

Wildlife trafficking

The TF-CIT looks at the threat of illicit trade from a general perspective that takes into account all impacted markets and trade sectors, including wildlife trafficking, a low-risk, and high reward illicit market.

It developed a set of original quantitative exercises that sheds additional information on the ways trade routes of wildlife trafficking are shaped, and on related governance gaps that enable them.

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