Indian government has formulated National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (2017-20), a detailed action plan with timelines for smooth implementation of WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). Recommendations made by four working groups on legislative changes, time release study, outreach programme and infrastructure augmentation have been included in this plan.
- Members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) including India have ratified TFA, which aims at easing customs procedures, expediting goods movement, release and clearance of consignments.
- For the implementation of the pact, Indian government had last year set up Cabinet Secretary-headed National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF).
Salient Features of Trade Facilitation Action Plan (2017-20):
Implementation of the plan, which also includes suggestions of the private sector, has been divided into short term (0-6 months), medium term (6-18 months) and long term (18-36 months).
- The short term action plan includes augmentation of storage infrastructure for perishable goods and clearance of such goods within 12 hours of landing for import and 8 hours for export
- The plan for medium term includes updation of all regulatory information available on the internet on a single window portal; to put in place adequate bio-security measures for livestock imports and publication of all fees on a single window website.
- Specific responsibilities have been given to all regulatory agencies like Customs, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), Drug Controller, Plant Quarantine, Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), etc to be completed in a time-bound manner.
- Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) and the commerce ministry would also work on streamlining policy for e-commerce which includes cutting documentation requirements and providing single submissions.
About WTO-Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA):
The TFA is the World Trade Organization’s first-ever multilateral accord that seeks to simplify and thereby expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods across borders.
- Full implementation of TFA is likely to reduce the time needed to import goods by over a day and a half and to export goods by almost two days.
- TFA is also expected to help new firms export for the first time.
- Moreover, once the TFA is fully implemented, number of new products exported from developing countries is expected to increase by as much as 20 per cent, with least developed countries (LDCs) likely to see an increase of up to 35 per cent.