Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the entry into force of the
WTO-Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) on February 22 this year was a major
milestone for the global trading system.
He was speaking after releasing the National Trade Facilitation Action Plan
(NTFAP) on July 20. With the release of this Action Plan, India looks forward
to ensuring compliance with the TFA and also, impetus to trade facilitation.
The Finance Minister further said that the Action Plan gives a time bound
map, not only for implementing TFA, but also for India’s initiatives for trade
facilitation and Ease of Doing Business which goes beyond TFA.
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 of stakeholders from the Government and the
private sectors including trade community.
The NCTF has adopted 76 point National Trade Facilitation Action Plan
(NTFAP) which is a reflection of the Government’s commitment to implement the
Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
The National Action Plan aims to transform cross border clearance ecosystem
through efficient, transparent, risk based, co-ordinated, digital, seamless and
technology driven procedures which are supported by state-of-the-art sea ports,
airports and land borders.
The objectives to be achieved by National Action Plan are improvement in
ease of doing business by reduction in cargo release time and cost, move towards
paperless regulatory environment, transparent and predictable legal regime and
improved investment climate through better infrastructure.
The Action Plan lists out specific activities which would be carried out by
all regulatory agencies like Customs, FSSAI, Drug Controller, Plant Quarantine,
DGFT etc in time bound manner. The Co-ordination among all the stakeholders is
the key to achieve the objective of Trade facilitation.
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. The Action Plan covers many activities in the areas of infrastructure
augmentation, particularly the road and rail infrastructures 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,
Commerce etc have been assigned specified targets.
All actions covered under the plan have been categorized by prioritizing
the activities into short term, midterm and long term. The National Plan would
be monitored by the Steering Committee (the operational arm of the NCTF)
chaired by the Revenue Secretary and the Commerce Secretary. The plan would be
reviewed by the Cabinet Secretary.