Islamabad - The Ministry of Commerce and the Revenue Mobilization, Investment and Trade (ReMIT) Project of UN-ITC (United Nation’s International Trade Centre) Tuesday launched rollout of WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) for cross-border regulatory agencies. Concluded at the WTO’s 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference, the TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. The TFA entered into force in February 2017. Same year in October 2017, Pakistan became the 51st member of World Trade Organisation (WTO) to ratify the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

The Advisor the Prime Minister on Government Effectiveness, Jahanzeb Khan chaired this national event. Heads of cross-border regulatory agencies, including FBR, Customs, Commerce, Pakistan Standards Quality Control Authority (PSQCA), Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), AnimalQuarantine Department (AQD), Department of Plant Protection (DPP), Anti-Narcotic Force (ANF),Pakistan Single Window (PSW) and other departments participated. Among the business community, exporters, importers, industry representatives and port operators also participated in the event.

The program was sponsored by UK Government through Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO). UN-ITC, which is a joint agency of the WTO (WTO) and the United Nations (UN) provided the technical assistance. Ms Nadia Aftab, representative of UNIDO, expressed views on behalf of UN’s Resident Coordinator. She shared about the trade related technical assistance being provided by UNIDO in broader spectrum of trade facilitation.

The chief guest said that WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreements (TFA) provided an excellent opportunity for Pakistan to cut business costs through transparent and efficient system for clearance of goods across borders. He also reiterated that COVID-19 disrupted economic activity worldwide. Thus, in Pakistan, after a slight contraction of real GDP in FY2020. Implementation of WTO-TFA suggests important policy measures that would help Pakistan’s economy to rebound. Supporting our export-oriented industries and SMEs will facilitating these firms to increase their export earnings and integrating with international value chains.

The chief guest appreciated the assistance provided by UN-ITC, Geneva and FCDO UK in the area of trade facilitation and export promotion. Secretary Commerce and Chairman FBR also shared their views on the occasion. Secretary Commerce informed that Ministry of Commerce was restructuring the WTO-wing in the Ministry and re-organizing National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC), earlier called NTTFC, National Trade and Transport Facilitation Committee. It is also ReMIT project’s recommendation, so that implementation of TFA commitments is systematically coordinated and monitored, and progress updates are shared with stakeholders and to WTO Geneva on regular basis. FBR Chairman told that FBR was committed to work closely with Commerce and all other regulatory agencies and business community to achieve TFAimplementation targets within the timelines set by the Govt. Business Leaders from KCCI and Pak-Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Zubair Motiwala appreciated the activities of the UN ITC’s ReMIT project in creating awareness and practically helping our members across the country in recognizing and playing their roles. Private businesses and women traders gained a better understanding of TFA commitments and its benefits to the trade. Dr Muhammad Saeed from UN-ITC Geneva stated that trade facilitation has important implications for a country’s export competitiveness. Small and Medium-size Enterprises (SMEs) suffer disproportionately from inefficiencies in customs procedures and other border administration measures. ITC’s trade facilitation programme assists trade support institutions and SMEs in getting their goods across borders faster and cheaper. Heads of PSQCA, DRAP, SMEDA, AQD and DPP also shared their views and showed organizational commitment to play their part in successful implementation of TFA.

Trade facilitation has important implications for a country’s

export competitiveness

Dr Jawwad Agha, national coordinator and advisor to ReMIT project told that a major outcome ReMITITC project had achieved was providing a platform for consultations among CBRA in various domains of trade faciliation. It created a realization among TF stakeholders in rising to adopt their roles and responsibilities and play their part in improving cross border trading environment. He said that ReMIT purposely planned sessions in which both business and regulatory agencies actively participated. In this process priority areas were identified for improving our trading environment. CBRAs got the first hand views, perception about challenges their customers, end-users in business community were facing.

In multiple rounds with major CBRAs and businesses at all major cities, from which ReMIT team distilled practical recommendations to adopt international best practices for TFA rollout. Businesses too, learnt about their rights and responsibilities in designing and implementing TFA, to avail the desired benefits.

Dr Agha shared that in next phases of the project the private and public sector would be further assisted in brushing up their advocacy and negotiation skills in developing an inclusive environment for tradepolicy formulation and business reforms, without any gender bias.

FCDO, UK and ITC, Geneva re-iterated their support to the project and appreciated the outcome of the project in raising awareness, capacity building and institutional strengthening for trade facilitation.