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India negotiating trade facilitation pact with 10 countries currently : CBIC Chairman

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NEW DELHI : In a bid to facilitate faster customs clearance for traders, India is currently negotiating Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) with 10 countries, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) Chairman Sanjay Agarwal said while speaking at the ‘International Customs Day 2024’ here on Saturday.

MRA is an arrangement aimed at providing reciprocal benefits to accredited and trusted exporters of both the signatories in the clearance of goods by the Customs authorities of the importing country. At present, India has operational MRAs with four countries including the US, UAE, and Australia.

The acknowledgment of Authorized Economic Operators (AEOs) by multiple parties is a fundamental aspect of the World Customs Organization’s SAFE Framework of Standards. This framework aims to enhance and streamline global trade by fortifying supply chain security from end to end, all the while fostering increased trade facilitation on a global scale.

At the same event, Finance Minister Smt Nirmala Sitharaman, in a written message, said that the initiatives of Customs department like Faceless Assessment and Single Window Clearance need to evolve with the overall objective of growth of trade as every partner needs to collaborate to help India’s GDP surpass $5 trillion by 2027-28.

Many initiatives taken by the Customs department such as Direct Port Delivery, Single Window Clearance, AEO Scheme need to evolve with the overall objective of growth of trade and business, she said.

The Customs’ Single Window Interface for Facilitating Trade (SWIFT) project was implemented in 2016 aimed at streamlining processes for importers by eliminating the need for separate declarations with government agencies.

SWIFT allows importers and exporters, the facility to lodge their clearance documents online at a single point only. Required permissions from other regulatory agencies are obtained online without the trader having to approach these agencies separately.

However, some government agencies have still not integrated their systems with SWIFT. “I would urge the remaining PGAs to automate their systems and integrate it with SWIFT quickly for the benefit of traders,” said revenue secretary Sanjay Malhotra at the event.

Malhotra further said that the government needs to do more to improve the Customs system with the help of technology. “All the processes of Customs should be automated. By that I mean, all payments, all assessments , refunds, interface with trade…all should be automated,” he said.

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