Pakistan improves ranking on trade facilitation index

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has considerably improved its implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) from 34 percent in June 2018 to 79 percent in November 2020, said a statement issued by the Federal Board of Revenue.

Due to the effective implementation of TFA, Pakistan has improved 31 positions in ‘Trading Across Border Index’ by the World Trade Centre which tangibly contributed to the rise of Pakistan (from 136th position to 108th position) in the Global Fund’s Annual Ease of Doing Business 2020 Report.

According to the statement, the implementation of WTO’s TFA by Pakistan is better than regional countries like India and Bangladesh, where implementation rates are 78.2 percent and 36.1 percent respectively. Pakistan’s implementation rate is higher than the average of all WTO members (65.5 percent) as well as all developing countries (65.2 percent).

Trade facilitation is an effective driver to stimulate economic activity, attract foreign direct investment, promote exports and generate employment. In line with the direction of the prime minister to thoroughly facilitate trade (import, export, and transit) to achieve the strategic objectives of economic and export-led growth, Pakistan Customs (FBR) followed an integrated plan.

The FBR chairman specifically designated dedicated project teams under Member (Customs) to ensure implementation of WTO’s TFA in the country. “The teams worked industriously and all this resulted in substantial implementation (and compliance) with the TFA and have comprehensively facilitated national/regional/international trade.”

Salient TFA reforms/provisions that have been implemented in Pakistan include Authorized Economic Operators (AEO) Programme, advance ruling, electronic payments, pre-arrival processing, freedom of transit, opportunity to comment and information before entry into force, temporary admission of goods and inward & outward processing, risk management and post-clearance audit.

According to the WTO, among the most difficult-to-implement (and least notified) provisions are Single Window and Border Agency cooperation.  The implementation of WTO’s TFA by Pakistan has been acknowledged worldwide.

Despite this, significant work has been done on these important areas with the help of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and these provisions would be implemented in Pakistan well within timelines. According to the World Bank, Pakistan has made the list of top ten governments that have done the most in the past year to improve the ease of doing business in their countries.

OECD Trade Facilitation Indicators DataBase (2019) has acknowledged Pakistan’s best performance across the areas under TFA. Moreover, the World Customs Organization (WCO) has stated that “considering the recent advancement of Pakistan Customs administration for proceeding TFA, Pakistan is suitable to be listed in the successful countries”.