NEW DELHI: A panel met on Friday to take stock of India’s preparedness to ease customs procedures for trade facilitation, a commitment made under a WTO pact. The first meeting of the Cabinet secretary-chaired National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF) discussed the urgency of implementing those provisions of the Trade Facilitation Agreement that India is ready and need for inter-ministerial coordination andprivate-sector engagement. The agreement contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues that would help improve transparency, increase possibilities to participate in global value chains, and reduce the scope for corruption.
The agreement is part of the World Trade Organisation’s Bali ministerial package of 2013 and will come into force after it is accepted by two-thirds of members. With 94 of the 162 member countries having ratified the pact, it’s expected to come into force early next year.
Officials present at the meeting said it was decided to have a three-tier structure to deal with trade facilitation issues — the national committee will look at regulatory and legislative hurdles, a steering committee, to be jointly headed by commerce and revenue secretaries, will handle compliance while ad-hoc groups would help implement specific provisions.
According to an official statement, revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia spoke about the need to do away with the multiplicity of committees looking at trade facilitation. He said the NCTF could subsume other such committees and become a uniform voice.
“The steering committee will make a matrix to identify gaps in each provision and strategy to fill in those gaps,” said a person present at the meeting. The WTO agreement has articles on provisions such as information availability and publication, advance rulings, review procedures, customs cooperation and export-import of goods, among others.