Online customs clearance to reduce Pak-China trade deficit

Karachi – Online customs clearance system introduced by the government at Sust dry port will help in eliminating discrepancy in data of trade between China and Pakistan, officials said on Saturday.

Bilateral trade under the first phase of free trade agreement between Pakistan and China largely remained in favour of China as its exports stood at more than $14 billion while Pakistan’s exports fetched just over $2 billion, showing a trade deficit of more than $12 billion.

A tax reform commission constituted by the ministry of finance in 2014 unearthed a massive under-invoicing and mis-declaration of $3 billion related to merchandise goods imported from China.

“Online WeBOC (web-based one customs) system eliminating discretionary powers will help genuine traders, while overcoming under-invoicing up to great extent,” a tax official said. The FBR’s customs department operationalised WeBOC at the dry port during the current month. Local importers and exporters are opposing the online system despite the fact that it would help in doing away with discretionary manual system.

The officials said the traders are opposing the system for unknown reasons. A FBR official, deputed at the Sust border, said the bilateral trade between China and Pakistan remains suspended for few months every year during severe winter season when roads are blocked because of heavy snowfall usually during November to April period.

Officials said the WeBOC is an automated customs clearance system operating on all the customs stations in Pakistan and before launching it formally at the Pakistan-China border, the Chief Collector Customs (North) and Collector Customs (Gilgit-Baltistan) convened a special meeting with all the chambers and traders at customs house Gilgit to take them in confidence about the newly stalled system.

Since the rollout of WeBOC at Sust port by the start of this season, numerous awareness seminars have been conducted to brief the traders about the benefits offered by the system to the government and businesses.

The officials said continuous training sessions have been conducted at the Sust dry port to train the traders about its application. Customs service centres have also been established to assist traders in digitally filing of goods declaration and educate them of the system’s other mechanism. “Roll-out of WeBOC shall not only make the trade through Pak-China border easy but shall also align Sust dry port with all the modern customs infrastructures existing all over Pakistan,” an official said.

Modern fiber optics lines have been laid down, with the help of Special Communications Organization, to provide uninterrupted internet service to all the stakeholders till Khunjrab border.

“Model customs collectorate Gilgit-Baltistan is fully geared to extend full facilitation to all genuine traders,” the official added. The officials said all stakeholders, including customs, National Logistics Cell, Special Communications Organization and National Bank of Pakistan are motivated and trained to roll out WeBOC for the mutual benefits of tax authorities and businessmen.

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