This year, the World Customs Organization (WCO) has chosen the theme “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain” to mark the World Customs Day this year.
Around 190 Customs administrations celebrate World Customs Day under the leadership of World Customs Organization (WCO) each year on 26th January.
This year’s theme is in line with current challenges faced by governments around the globe in handling the COVID-19 induced crisis.
The theme shows the resolve of WCO to guide and lead the way for Customs Administrations to become resilient to such shocks in future through promotion of resilience and sustainability.
Customs, along with other border agencies, has a crucial role in facilitating trade and integrating border procedures as has been reiterated by COVID-19 pandemic which has demonstrated critical and central role of Customs in ensuring seamless operation of supply chains and preventing barriers like the pandemic from becoming a roadblock in the transportation of essential items like medical goods across the borders.
In line with this year’s theme, Customs administrations around the globe will be encouraged to incorporate digitization at their borders by introducing automation with the use of AI and other innovative technologies.
These include digital and paperless clearance methods, and single window systems for facilitating and accelerating processes while eliminating red-tapism. Incorporating Artificial Intelligence in Customs systems can serve as a game changer in this regard and can also offer supportive functions like data sharing and data analysis.
The major roadblocks faced during the pandemic drives home the point that for socio-economic recovery and more resilient systems, supply chains require more effective coordination across borders and efficient transport systems.
Efficient intermodal transport system would employ internationally recognised instruments like the United Nations TIR Convention and its eTIR International System, the CMR Convention and its eCMR Protocol and the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA). These allow for contactless cross border cargo movement eliminating the need for people to people contact.
Coordinated border management through Single Window systems allow traders to communicate electronically with all agencies involved. Pakistan has made significant strides in this regard since it ratified the WTO’s Agreement on Trade Facilitation on 27th October, 2015 and committed to the establishment of a trade related National Single Window (NSW) with an implementation timeline of five years with effect from 22nd February, 2017.
The Government, in October, 2017, designated Pakistan Customs as the lead agency for implementation of Pakistan Single Window before February, 2022.The Single Window system will connect all stakeholders via integrated Declarations and will eliminate the current practice of filing and pursuing separate applications to Customs and Other Government Departments (OGAs).
Information sharing regarding goods that require Licenses., Permits, Certificates from OGAs will be automated which will improve regulatory controls and transparency. Most importantly, paper-less processing will reduce dwell times and make it easier to regulate economic operators.
Work is well underway on the Pakistan Single Window and efforts of Pakistan Customs are bearing fruits. Concerted efforts by the Pakistan Customs, under FBR, have led to impressive performance in terms of compliance to the provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Trade Facilitation Agreement. Pakistan has been able to reduce the dwell time for imports and exports by increasing the percentage of clearances through Green Channel as part of its Risk Management system.
The Pakistan Single Window would further integrate online over 45 government departments or agencies in Pakistan and would make trading across borders a hassle-free and seamless operation. Pakistan has climbed 31 spots recently on Trading Across Border Index, a testament to the efforts of FBR and Pakistan Customs.
Regional cooperation on trade facilitation and transport connectivity is the need of the hour.
In order to address the vulnerability of Customs to risks like pandemics, Customs administrations will have to build greater resilience with policy makers keeping people central to their decision making models. Customs will have to rethink their operations in such a way as to build their capacity for coping with risks like pandemics in future with minimum costs.
The WCO’s theme this year for International Customs Day, “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience” should serve as a guiding post and reference for Customs Administrations looking towards a more sustainable future and it is hoped, that Pakistan Customs will, once again show their professionalism and resolve by being at the forefront of this effort.