Pakistan Customs prepare draft Pakistan Single Window Act to simplify cross border trade processes

KARACHI: In order to establish a separate autonomous body to simplify cross border trade processes, reduce cost of doing business and facilitate trade on national and international level; Pakistan Customs has prepared the draft Pakistan Single Window Act, 2019.

National Single Window (NSW) is a platform that allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardised information and documents using a single-entry point to fulfil all import, export and transit related regulatory requirements. In order to improve the governance of their cross-border trade regimes other economies are increasingly relying on trade related single window systems.

The lack of Information Communication Technology (ICT) based coordination and decision making among various regulatory authorities and Customs has led to increasing cost, time and complication for undertaking cross border trade in Pakistan.

As per World Bank’s report on Ease of Doing Business for 2019, Pakistan ranks at 142nd position in the ‘Trading Across Borders’ indicator. The complexity to conduct trade is impacting Pakistan’s competitiveness in integrating into Global Value Chains and becoming a regional hub for trade and transit.

As part of its trade facilitation and regional connectivity agenda, Pakistan is committed to reforming, modernising, upgrading, and automating its system to match the on-going investments in its infrastructure for cross-border trade.

Moreover, Pakistan has ratified the WTO’s Agreement on Trade Facilitation on 27th October, 2015 and as such under its Article 10.4 has committed to the establishment of a trade related National Single Window (NSW) as a ‘Category C’ commitment with an implementation timeline of five years with effect from 22nd February, 2017.

The Prime Minister’s Office designated Pakistan Customs in FBR as the Lead Agency in October, 2017 for implementation of an ICT based trade related NSW. This decision is based on the fact that in majority of countries their Customs Administrations are leading the NSW implementation due to their central role in cross border trade regulation.

Moreover, Pakistan Customs has successfully demonstrated its capability by implementing indigenously designed automation based trade facilitation initiatives like Web Based One Customs (WeBOC) which provides paperless processing for 90% of cross border trade. Customs has also electronically linked 14 different regulatory authorities and all major commercial banks under INTRA (Integration of Regulatory Authorities) program with the WeBOC, using in-house resources.

Currently Customs Wing in the FBR, through a dedicated Program Management Office (PMO), is working to establish Pakistan Single Window (PSW). The various preparatory studies for PSW implementation with the help of development partners have been completed.

A PSW Implementation Blueprint was prepared in accordance with the Situation Analysis of 44 different regulatory authorities. Based on the recommendation of the said report, the Prime Minister has constituted a high-level Steering Committee in May, 2018. This Committee under the chairmanship of the Minister for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs, is overseeing timely implementation of the PSW.

Moreover, to ensure broader collaboration, six Working Groups for key components of PSW have been notified in September, 2018 with nominations of domain experts from all relevant public & private sector stakeholders.

The implementation of a NSW system requires alignment of various national laws and procedures related to cross border trade. In this context the FBR through technical experts has undertaken a legal gap analysis, wherein, it has been proposed that a new PSW law may be promulgated.

Based on the said legal gap analysis and the business model as approved by the Steering Committee, the FBR has prepared a draft PSW Act. While framing this law the recommendations by United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UNCEFACT) as well as other relevant international and national laws have also been considered.

After placing the PSW draft law on FBR’s website on 31st May 2019, the feedback received from Working Groups and experts engaged by PMO as well as the outcome of various studies, currently underway, have been incorporated to update this draft law. It may be noted that this PSW Act, 2019 is still at draft stage which will continue to be updated, based on the feedback received from different stakeholders. By end of July, 2019 it is expected to be presented to the Steering Committee of the PSW.

Keeping in view significance of PSW, the FBR is looking forward to valuable feedback, comments, observations and suggestions on the draft PSW Act from for all the stakeholders involved with the cross-border movement of goods including imports, exports and transit trade.

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