Recently, the Government of India has constituted National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF) under the Chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary with an objective to develop the pan-India road map for trade facilitation. It is a follow up of India’s ratification of the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA) in April 2016. The establishment of the Committee is part of the mandatory, institutional arrangement of the TFA.
The defined objective behind setting up the NCTF is to have a national level body that will facilitate domestic co-ordination and implementation of TFA provisions. It will be instrumental in synergising the various trade facilitation perspectives across the country and will also focus on a specific programme for sensitisation of all stakeholders about TFA.
The NCTF has a three tier structure: the main National Committee and under it Steering Committee and Working Groups. The main national committee will be the pivot for monitoring the implementation of the TFA. The Steering Committee below it will be chaired by Member, Customs, CBEC and will be responsible for identifying the nature of required legislative changes as well as for spearheading the diagnostic tools needed for assessing India’s level of compliance to the TFA. It will have the responsibility to form and monitor the working of Working Groups of experts which will deal with specific trade facilitation issues.
The composition of the NCTF is inclusive at the national committee level which will comprise of Secretaries of all key Departments involved in trade issues like Revenue, Commerce, Agriculture, Home, Shipping, Health etc. It will also have Chairman CBEC, Chairman Railway Board and Director General Foreign Trade as Members. Major trade associations as members of NCTF include Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (FICCI), Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), Associated Chambers of Commerce in India (ASSOCHAM), Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Associations in India (FFFAI), etc. Joint Secretary, Customs, CBEC will be its Member Secretary.
Commenting on the formation of NCTF Mr Samir Shah, Chairman, FFFAI said, “It’s a very pragmatic step towards achieving the goal of WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. We are very happy that the government has taken FFFAI as its member to add the freight forwarding industry perspective. Our Federation would provide NCTF with all necessary inputs based on the feedback from the freight forwarding community in India to benefit the foreign trade and the country’s economy at large.”
The Terms Reference of NCTF
Finalisation and approval of National Trade Facilitation Plan for implementation of the provisions of the Trade Facilitation Agreement based on the categorisation of Provisions notified to the WTO
Finalisation and approval of an outreach programme on Trade Facilitation comprising specific activities to be conducted for the education of stakeholders and for obtaining their regular feedback and the identification of agencies that would conduct these activities
Monitoring progress of TFA implementation and the outreach programme and proposing corrective measures
Contributing to the legislative changes required to support implementation of TFA
Dissemination and compilation of international best practices
Coordination and integration of Trade Facilitation plan with the consultative mechanism at State and local level
Monitoring the work of Steering Committee and Working Groups
The NCTF will meet twice a year and submit an annual report to the Government and progress made in the implementation of the agreement along with recommendations to overcome difficulties, if any.