"India has been a strong proponent by and large on the issue. India has already taken many steps to streamline customs procedures," Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said. This is the first such agreement since the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was set up way back in 1995.
As per the draft text of the agreement, each member would be required to promptly publish information regarding issues like importation, exportation and transit procedures in a non-discriminatory and easily accessible manner in order to enable governments, traders and other interested parties to become acquainted with them.
India has already taken many steps to streamline customs procedures
"Each Member shall, within its available resources, establish or maintain one or more enquiry points to answer reasonable enquiries of governments, traders and other interested parties," the agreement says. However, an official said that Indian government has to amend certain regulations and acts to implement the agreement.
Each member nation, he added, would also be mandated to provide opportunities and an appropriate time period to traders to comment on the proposed introduction or amendment of laws and regulations of general application related to movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit.
The official said that the pact would help in smooth flow of good in sectors like agriculture and pharmaceuticals. Earlier there were instances when pharmaceutical consignments were confiscated and consignments of agriculture commodities like grapes were returned.
The draft text also proposed several steps to increase customs cooperation among member countries. In recent years, India has undertaken autonomous reforms to simplify and modernise its trade procedures.As a developing country, India will be entitled to adequate transition time for implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
As per the agreement, the member nations will have to set up a clearly defined work programme within the next 12 months on the remaining Doha Development Agenda issues and build on the decisions taken at the Bali conference especially with regard to agriculture, development and least developed countries (LDCs).