TEXT: We live in the age of information technology. This has led to the digital transformation that affects all facets of life including entities, businesses, and businesses in the public and private sectors. Modern international trade being no exception has also undergone massive changes and seen greater advancements.

It has grown enormously over the years in addition to becoming highly scientific and competitive, requiring compliance with a wide range of standards and rules. Changes in technology and the supply chain have put pressure on government institutions to catch up, especially in effectively managing cross-border trade. It is believed that embracing digital transformation is now the only way for governments and businesses to drive and enable trade-led growth, which has been recognized as an engine for sustainable growth and jobs in the EU. global scale.

In the above context, Pakistan Customs has to play a very proactive and proactive role as it is the prime agency of the government tasked with tackling international trade including export, import and cargo in transit. On the one hand, Customs must ensure the smooth and uninterrupted flow of goods in accordance with the principles of ease of doing business, trade facilitation in a transparent manner and, on the other hand, it must strive to achieve this only Legitimate purpose cargo enters and exits international borders i.e. air, land and sea. To achieve these two goals, Customs must embrace digital transformation and adopt a data culture and ecosystem. The obstruction to ever increasing trade in goods is highly undesirable as it affects the global supply chain besides increasing the cost of goods making them uncompetitive in international markets. With the adoption of these tools, Pakistan Customs can become more convenient and efficient than ever in doing international business.

It is understandable that the automation and digitization of business processes involved in the clearance of goods as well as ancillary functions such as seizures, tickets, auctions, warehousing and other related areas cannot afford. be handled manually in today’s world where commerce cannot continue to be conducted along primitive lines. Active coordination and integration between entire agencies and the stakeholders involved, from production to final delivery of goods, as well as transportation and port customs clearances, can only deliver the goods. Naturally, harmonized and predictable customs rules and procedures are essential to smooth trade flows. The availability of databases and ecosystems can provide traders with transparent, predictable and fast customs clearance of goods, reduce administrative burden through paperless work and, most importantly, combat fraud and crime. It can also improve governance, reduce corruption, strengthen customs law reforms and simplify procedures related to customs work. Appropriate trader databases allow Customs to examine containers based on selectivity criteria. Likewise, the valuation database can help in valuing goods with proper collection of duties and taxes.

Customs valuation databases are a useful risk assessment tool for Customs administrations. In the same way, detailed information regarding classification, customs tariff, import/export regulations, rules of origin, can guide traders towards predictable and smooth trade. Thus, the proper deployment of data culture and data ecosystem being relevant and practical tools can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the department. These tools can also be useful in preventing, detecting and thwarting customs crimes through the consolidated data collected in addition to data sharing and interconnectivity between cross-border regulatory agencies that can ensure proper customs enforcement and controls. Discrepancies of any kind can have a major negative effect on global trade and economic growth.

The clearance of goods also requires compliance with trade regulations and compliance with the conditionalities of other ministries. In addition, stakeholders such as port authorities, terminal operators, shipping companies, banks and other entities also have a role to play which can hinder cargo clearance. The integration and sharing of data such as container database, electronic cargo tracking system, data portals and online platforms between different agencies working on ports, especially shipping companies logistics and transportation, can improve throughout the business environment.

Pakistan Customs in the area of ​​automation and digitalization of business processes has done a better job and achieved moderate success, but replacing a Customs clearance system with WEBOC is not enough due to the fact that trade in the country, especially exports, is likely. to grow in large volumes in the near future. The lack of databases and the absence of a data ecosystem in addition to the absence of coordination and decision-making based on information and communication technologies (ICT) between the various regulatory authorities and customs have only added to the excessive cost and time and complications of smooth cross-border trade in Pakistan. This requires appropriate links and data exchange between customs and shipping companies, border agencies and other tax authorities, through the integration of various electronic interfaces and portals. The WCO is therefore lobbying and placing particular emphasis on Customs administration across the world for coordination in the field of databases and the data ecosystem. It has been observed that Pakistan is slow to do business in cross-border trade due to the large number of regulatory authorities working in silos and relying on paper-based processing, resulting in overall inefficiency.

Keeping this in mind, FBR has introduced a major reform initiative in the form of Pakistan Single Window (PSW) which will provide a single platform for traders and remove barriers in managing import, export and trade transit and cross-border trade and regulatory regimes. requirements. Its implementation will enable Pakistan to comply with the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, in addition to helping unlock its potential as a hub for trade and transit. This is an important step towards the digital transformation of Pakistan’s cross-border trade ecosystem. This program, through an ICT-based platform, envisions the creation of simplified and automated regulatory processes related to cross-border trade in addition to establishing a port community system to facilitate logistics, e-commerce and the adoption of integrated risk management to improve government controls. This will reduce the cost and time involved. in cross-border trade while strengthening government accountability and controls and improving collaboration between government agencies and the trading community. Few of the significant features of PSW include a unified electronic check-in and payment system; Integrated risk management system; Pakistan Trade Portal; Automation of licenses, permits, certificates and other documents; PCS coverage of major ports, inland ports and land border crossings; B2B transactions for trade and logistics; E-commerce integration, etc.

Moreover, in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become essential for Customs to establish the processes and modules that enable business transactions to take place without physical interaction between different stakeholders through coordination and proactive approach to ongoing global supply chain facilitation. . These challenges can be addressed through databases and digital solutions.

Gwadar Customs Collectorate, realizing the need and importance, has already moved away from manual system by introducing WeBOC system for Gabd border clearance. It has also been deployed to Gwadar Port and Gwadar Free Zone. This initiative has been appreciated by trade and industry in the region. Efforts are underway to replicate the system in Mand and Panjgur to ensure online clearance of goods. The Reemdan TIR station, adjoining Gabd, is also in the final stages of approval, making way for transit freight. Ultimately, it is hoped that RBF and Pakistan Customs will resolve to implement the WCO slogan by intensifying the digital transformation of all business processes by making maximum use of the right mix of technologies and deployment of tools like data integration, data analytics and mining along with integrated digital platforms can only help to manage large volumes of international trade with minimum cost and time.

Ch Muhammad Jawaid

Collector of Customs, Gwadar

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022