Finance Minister Arun Jaitley released the National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (NTFAP).
The NTFAP was considered a major milestone for the global trading system.
About the NTFAP:
The NTFAP gives a time bound map, not only for implementing WTO-Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) but also for India’s initiatives for trade facilitation and ease of doing business which goes beyond TFA.
The NTFAP aims to transform cross border clearance ecosystem through efficient, transparent, risk based, coordinated, digital, seamless and technology driven procedures which are supported by state-of-the-art sea ports, airports and land borders.
The action plan lists out specific activities which would be carried out by all regulatory agencies like Customs, FSSAI, Drug Controller, Plant Quarantine and DGFT in a time-bound manner.
The action plan not only covers the activities coming under the TFA but they go beyond the ambit of TFA per se, which have been defined as TFA Plus category.
It also covers many activities in the areas of infrastructure augmentation, particularly the road and rail infrastructure leading to ports and the infrastructure within ports, airports, ICDs, land customs stations that cuts across all stakeholders for which various ministries like shipping, civil aviation, railways, road transport and highways, home affairs, finance and commerce have been assigned specified targets.
All actions covered under the plan have been categorised by prioritising the activities into short, mid and long term.
Monitoring and review of NTFAP:
The national plan would be monitored by the steering committee (the operational arm of the National Committee on Trade Facilitation) chaired by the revenue secretary and the commerce secretary.
The plan would be reviewed by the cabinet secretary.
Earlier, under Article 23.2 of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), a National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF) headed by the Cabinet Secretary was constituted.
The NCTF comprises stakeholders from the government and the private sector, including trade community.
The NCTF has adopted a 76-point National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (NTFAP) which is a reflection of the government’s commitment to implement the TFA.
About Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA):
The TFA in Goods is the WTO’s first-ever multilateral accord that aims to streamline, simplify, standardise and ease customs procedures and norms for the cross-border movement of goods.
The TFA in Goods was adopted by the WTO Members in 2014.
It was outcome of WTO’s 9th Bali (Indonesia) ministerial package of 2013.
While Trade Facilitation in Services (TFS) Agreement is the global pact proposed by India to boost services trade at the WTO-level.
The proposed services pact is similar to the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in Goods.
Provisions under TFA:
The agreement includes provisions for:
Lowering import tariffs and agricultural subsidies: It will make it easier for developing countries to trade with the developed world in global markets.
Abolish hard import quotas: Developed countries would abolish hard import quotas on agricultural products from the developing world and instead would only be allowed to charge tariffs on amount of agricultural imports exceeding specific limits.
Reduction in red tape at international borders: It aims to reduce red-tapism to facilitate trade by reforming customs bureaucracies and formalities.