Govt. steps up to boost trade facilitation

Friday, 25 May 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


  • Trade Information Portal and complete blueprint for National Singe Window in July
  • Treasury Secy. says Govt. committed to improve cross-border formalities to bolster international trade participation, allocates Rs.325 million from 2018 Budget
  • Customs initiates risk management unit, in the process of authorising  post clearance audit and intelligence unit, while utilising trial model to introduce digital signature
  • Customs DG to soon submit draft document to Cabinet  to amend regulations to facilitate paperless and pre-arrival clearance
  • ITC agrees to finance capacity-building programs at Customs

By Charumini de Silva

Sri Lanka expects to launch the proposed Trade Information Portal (TIP) and complete the blueprint for the National Single Window (NSW) by July to streamline trade and meet the commitments of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

Presenting an update on the NSW blueprint, which isbeing developed with technical assistance from the World Bank (WB) and PM Group,the Government said it hoped to make the blueprint for implementation and operation of NSW ready by the end of July, whichwill see it on track for the launch of the TIP by early July as 80% of the total work has been completed. 

This information was revealed at the second of four public-private consultations (PPC) on the Governance Mechanism of the NSW for Trade in Sri Lanka organised by the Geneva-based International Trade Centre (ITC), in close collaboration with Sri Lanka’s National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC) yesterday in Colombo.

Treasury Secretary Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga said the Government was committed to improving cross-border formalities to strengthen Sri Lanka’s regional and international trade participation.

“As one of the fastest growing economies in the Asia-Pacific region, Sri Lanka has risen steadily to become a regional trade and logistics hub and is striving to make its economy more interconnected with regional and global markets. Thus, improving cross-border formalities is one of the key success factors to further participate in regional and international trade,” he added. 

Accordingly, the Government has setup eight taskforces based on the WB Ease of Doing Business program with a view to improve the present investment climate, to further facilitate cross-border trading. 

He said the Government had committed itself to creating a NSW as a national priority to reduce time and costs currently spent by traders in preparing and submitting information and documents to multiple border regulatory agencies. The NSW will allow parties involved in trade and transport to lodge information and documents with a single-entry point to fulfil all import, export and transit-related regulatory requirements.

For this purpose, Dr. Samaratunga said the Government had set apart Rs.325 million in the 2018 Budget. 

“Implementation of NSWwill be a key milestone in achieving this vision and the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to the swift implementation of this initiative,” he asserted.

He highlighted the importance of an appropriate decision-making and consultation mechanisms setup as a prerequisite to ensure the government policy interest as well as the need of the private sector for increased competitiveness.

The Treasury Secretary commended the continuous collaboration and the technical assistance given by the ITC and the WB for the timely and important NSW initiative.

NTFC Chairperson and Sri Lanka Customs Department Director General P.S.M.Charles said that as the blueprint for NSW was nearing completion, it was important for all stakeholders to prepare for the smooth implementation of this initiative.  

“The implementation of a project of this nature is an ambitious and challenging task, and requires having to coordinate with multiple stakeholders as well as with the different border regulations of the Government. Therefore, it is important to clearly identify the governance mechanism and the responsibilities during the development phase and the operational phase to successfully implement this initiative,” she added.

She went on to state that according to the recommendation of the WB, Customs has already initiated its risk management unit, while it was in the process of authorising the post clearance audit and intelligence unit to facilitate trade. In addition, she said that they were utilising a trial model to introduce a digital signature.  

Charles noted that Customs will submit the draft document for the amendment of some of the regulations which would help to facilitate paperless and pre-arrival clearance.

“We will soon submit this to the Cabinet and the Parliament for approval,” she stated.

In addition, she said the ITC had agreed to finance the capacity building programs, risk management and post clearance audit unit as well. 

She believed that at the second PPC on governance mechanism discussion, all public and private think tanks as well as all counterparts would come up with an implementable and practical governance structure to successfully implement NSW in the near future.

The objective of this second PPC was to facilitate the exchange of views between trade stakeholders on the governance mechanism for the NSW. Participants discussed how Sri Lanka could best protect the Government’s policy interests and the genuine need of the private sector for increased competitiveness through appropriate decision-making and consultations bodies.

The recommendations from this consultation will be shared with the NTFC as well as the WB who are currently involved in the development of a NSW Blueprint which will formulate recommendations for the consideration of the Government of Sri Lanka as the country proceeds towards implementation.

Pix by Lasantha Kumara