According to newspaper reports, the government has announced a new strategy to modernize cross-border trade among the member states of the World Trade Organization under the Trade Facilitation Agreement. The WTO had initiated Trade Facilitation Agreement four years ago to ease barriers coming in the way of cross-border trade and simplify the documentation of customs and transportation process.The agreement came into effect on February 22 this year after ratification from a majority of the WTO member countries. Reports suggest the government has ensured the organization that it is committed to adopt all the reforms after ratification of the agreement. The member countries are willing to launch reform programme in three categories which are labeled as A, B and C.The categories B and C relate to customs departments of the member countries. The business community of the country is awaiting for an official call to discuss the pros and cons of the emerging situation once the agreement is implemented. As it usually happens in other matters, the government lacks time and ability to prepare itself for a new world trade order. However, the Commerce Ministry has asked the National Trade and Transport Facilitation Committee to consult the private sector on the world trade issues.
Experts believe the government has already made commitments to the world trade body without taking the private sector of the country into confidence. Apparently, there is a lack of trust between the stakeholders and the official cadre which needs to be removed. The Federal Board of Revenueis seeking five years to sharethe rules, procedures, forms and policy matters of the department. It is hoped that the trade cost will be reduced by 14.5 percent after the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement. The agreement will also pave the way for foreign direct investment in the member countries, including Pakistan. Due to access to information facility after the agreement, experts believe it will increase revenue collections of the customs and reduce corruption. The Customs Department will have updated information about the clearance and release of the transported goods and the agreement will also help maintain affective cooperation among various government agencies concerned.
The whole world is in a transitionary period and changes are also affecting all the economic and social sectors in the country. The World Trade Organization has been set up to coordinate and facilitate trade activities among the member states and Pakistan will have to prepare itself to face the changing circumstances.