Ian Saunders

Secretary General-Elect of the World Customs Organization

With burning concerns about trade security and supply chain security worldwide, a Commerce and CBP veteran is stepping up to help guide the global customs community into an innovative and more secure future. Ian Saunders is Secretary General-Elect of the World Customs Organization and former CBP Assistant Commissioner of the Office of International Affairs. A member of the U.S. Government Senior Executive Service since 2008, Saunders has served the public and the international community in diverse and challenging roles focused on various facets of trade: customs, commercial policy, travel, and infrastructure. Saunders has led the implementation of programs, formulation of policies, and forging of partnerships that have advanced facilitation and security in trade worldwide. He has been at the forefront of customs evolution from a purely revenue-generating enterprise to one that has adopted a proactive enforcement posture to safeguard our societies from the cross-border movement of illicit goods and bad actors. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Saunders supported development of the SAFE Framework and promoted its global implementation via the WCO. He continues to advocate for coordinated border management to respond to supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, criminal exploitation of e-commerce shipments, the adverse effects of climate change, and other contemporary threats. As Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere at the International Trade Administration in the Commerce Department, Ian Saunders has been responsible for developing programs, policies and strategies designed to strengthen the United States’ commercial position in the Western Hemisphere. Saunders also served in other senior positions at CBP, including Deputy Assistant Commissioner for International Affairs, and Acting Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner for Operations Support, a role in which he was responsible for intelligence, incident management, planning and requirements, law enforcement safety and compliance, laboratory services, and international affairs. Before that appointment, Saunders served as Assistant Commissioner for International Affairs at US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), where he led the coordination and support of all CBP foreign initiatives, programs, and activities as well as the development and execution of that agency’s international strategies through an organization consisting of nearly 200 employees based in Washington, DC and overseas. Earlier in his tenure at CBP, he was Director of International Policy and Programs, Director of International Training and Assistance, and held several staff positions working on bilateral, regional and multilateral portfolios. Prior to ITA and CBP, he served for eight years as the Director of International Programs at the Federal Highway Administration. In June, the WCO elected Saunders as its next secretary general. While respecting the WCO’s rich past, Saunders recognizes the need to innovate and adapt to modern challenges. He has vowed to leverage his experience negotiating information sharing arrangements and leading global technology exchanges to help customs agencies harness new trade facilitation technologies while protecting sensitive business information.

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