The first meeting of the recently constituted National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF) was called by the Cabinet Secretary, Government of India on October 28, 2016 to design the structure and working pattern of NCTF. From Government of India, the meeting was attended by Secretaries of different departments and ministries. Industry associations were represented by the Freight Forwarders’ Associations in India (FFFAI) and other chambers. From FFFAI, Chairman Mr Samir J Shah and Vice Chairman Mr S Ramakrishna attended the NCTF meet.
In his speech at this meet Mr Shah complimented the Government on great initiatives on trade facilitation. “Wonderful work had been done by various Departments in bringing about a change. All the initiatives were noteworthy and welcomed by Industry. It is however, to be noted that the change is not seen by all users and hence it appears that the implementation of the changes has not taken place. There is a gap between the intent of the government and reality on the ground,” Mr Shah said.
In the FFFAI Chairman’s opinion, while infrastructure would take time to develop there should be a target on proper implementation of all the existing systems and uniform operations across the country. All decisions should be taken after consultations with stakeholders. For example, Mr Shah mentioned that the reduction in dwell time what expected by MOCA should have been done with more sensitivity and understanding the issues of all participants and not only the Custodians.
The FFFAI Chairman also maintained that India does not have a concept of proper certification of personnel which needs to be the case for proper execution of processes which adds to a lot of cost. To address the same, it would be important that the Skill Ministry is sensitized to include Logistics in all formats for training. “FFFAI would be happy to be associated itself with any study to be done to bring about a uniformity of process,” Mr Shah stressed.
Significantly, in his concluding remarks the Cabinet Secretary agreed with the arguments that Logistics is not being recognised as a standalone industry and there is a tendency to put whole Logistics Industry with individual Ministries. He recommended that the Ministry of Commerce would be the ideal Ministry to take up Logistics as an independent provision and work towards present issues faced by this Sector. He recommended that all industry associations to form a working committee in their respective organisation on NCTF consisting of experts from Logistics Industry stakeholders.
The Cabinet Secretary also urged all industry associations to form a working committee in their respective organisation on NCTF consisting of experts from shipping, road transport, highways, railways, air transport, export and import procedures, taxes & duties, legal issues, standards & barriers, and other issues pertaining to trade. Experts will be working as nodal point of contact for all matters pertaining to NCTF.
It may be recalled that the Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi had approved the Proposal for Notification of Commitments under the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) of World Trade Organization (WTO) on February 17, 2016.
The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. These objectives are in consonance with India’s “Ease of Doing Business” initiative. To facilitate both domestic coordination and implementation of the provisions of the Agreement, the National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF) was set up under the Chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary, by Government of India on August 11, 2016.