Ch. Muhammad Javaid,

Collector, MCC, Exports, Karachi.

Internationally, January 26th is celebrated as the International Customs Day under the auspices of the World Customs Organization (WCO) since the Convention establishing the Customs Co-operation Council was officially inaugurated in Brussels on January 26, 1953.

Subsequently, the Customs administrations of WCO member states organize various national events to celebrate the International Customs Day. The WCO on its part dedicates an annual theme that is officially declared on the Day and the theme for 2018 is dedicated to the security of business environment under the slogan “A Secure Business Environment for Economic Development”, which underscores the importance of security in business environment not only within the country, but also amongst the business communities globally.

The rapid pace of globalization in recent years has reshaped international trade scenario reverberating the security buzzword in today’s business challenges. Customs organizations around the world are committed to follow a coordinated and paramount approach on security concerns for external trade and Pakistan Customs is equally endeared to this goal through efficient utilization of modern gadgetry, human resources and technology for ensuring the security of the trade and stakeholders for an ensuing secure business environment.

The role of Customs has undergone changes in recent times. Now it is not restricted to collecting duties and taxes on imported goods and guarding sea, land and economic frontiers of a country only, but extended sphere of activities also involves trade facilitation and breathing life into the economy by securing the supply chain and thereby making the business environment more secure and predictable.

The developed automated system employed by the Pakistan Customs enables it to keep an online check on real time basis to make the business transactions secure. At the same time, Pakistan Customs is gradually shifting its focus towards protection of national borders and promotion of national economy in configuration with modern global Customs administrations. It is heralding in a new era in border controls through automated systems.

Border controls encompasses checking of illicit trade through smuggling, intellectual property rights infringements, arms trafficking and numerous other forms of cross-border transmissions. Any leniency in these core functions has dire consequences towards the business environment, investment and optimal growth of the national economy.

Customs also play a pivotal role in making the business environment more stable and safe by aligning its internal operations and procedures with the objectives of trade facilitation. It will involve transparency, predictability and logical forecasting in relation to its operations by the stakeholders involved; minimizing any chances of misuse of authority; elimination of corruption; rationalization of the clearance related business expenses of the importers as well as exporters.

Similarly, Customs has a significant role in combating illegal trade practices such as under-invoicing, mis-declarations, illicit goods trafficking through ports and borders, commercial frauds, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) infringements which all endanger and threaten the level playing field for genuine traders and ultimately affect the secure business environment and consequently stifle the economic development.

Modern day Customs is also facing new phenomena and techniques employed by the criminals for funding the cross border crimes and terrorism activities. Such elements secure financial gains to fund their activities by involving different malpractices within the customs domain of activities.

Identification, combating and prevention of such nefarious activities also falls within the new responsibilities of Customs for making the whole business environment more safe, secure and attractive for future investment to boost the national economy.

In this regard the international Customs community led by WCO has already embarked upon devising strategic tools and initiatives such as the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade or the WCO Security Program for building a secure business environment and Pakistan Customs is also benefitting from such instruments for contributing towards an increased security and trade facilitation.

Pakistan customs has taken major strides in simplification of documents which are required at the time of import and export. Moreover, significant headway has been made in removing the archaic customs procedures, which could otherwise hamper smooth flow of trade. Realizing  the fact that export promotion is an important instrument of job creation, improvements in the balance of payments position, accelerated economic growth and increase in the level of incomes and standard of living, the Pakistan Customs and the Collectorate of Customs (Exports) have always played due role in facilitating exports of Pakistan.

It is widely recognized that exports of any country lose demand in the international market because of two mains reasons. Firstly, the exported goods are not competitive because the same are not qualitative as well as cost-effective. Secondly, the goods do not reach their destinations in time due to stringent measures, undue procedural delays and security threats as well.

The security aspect of international trade has attained tremendous importance now especially in presence of world terrorism, organized crimes, smuggling of contraband/narcotics and frauds. So, there is an urgent need to make the international trade secure through the international supply chain security. It is highly desirable to dilate upon this phenomenon for a better comprehension and to critically appreciate the implications of its implementation for the exports.

This concept implies the use of customs import and export controls, identified by the WCO, to ensure supply chain integrity and security.

Since e-commerce has gained immense importance. Most of the global business houses are relying upon electronic communication channels to conduct global business. However, this phenomenon has given birth to security and trust issues, which need to be addressed for electronic payment mechanism to be accepted and established as a common medium of financial transactions.

Pakistan Customs is cognizant of this development and striding towards making the use of e-commerce for Customs purposes more secure to operate as a reliable and trusted operator in the global digital market and this is the reason that Customs has been nominated as the lead agency by the Government of Pakistan to operationalize the concept of National Single Window (NSW) for spearheading the campaign for making e-commerce a reliable factor while counting towards a secure business environment.