India for multilateral system for exchange of trade information

New Delhi, Oct 30 | Updated: Oct 31 2005, 05:30am hrs
India has proposed establishment of a multilateral mechanism to facilitate cooperation between customs authorities at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for easy verification of doubtful export-import documents by members.

In a submission to the negotiating group on trade facilitation, India pointed out that a multilateral cooperation mechanism for exchange of information among customs administration would go a long way in simplifying and liberalising border controls for expeditious clearance of legitimate trade, which is the objective of the negotiations.

Indias proposal incorporates exchanging specific information upon request on matters such as customs valuation, HS classification, full and accurate description, quantity, origin of goods in identified cases where there is reason to doubt the truth or accuracy of the declaration filed by the importer or exporter.

The request for information is to be limited to the data elements contained in the import or export declaration.

In appropriate cases, cooperation could also extend to providing documents filed in support of goods declaration to the requesting country for investigative and judicial processes, the paper said.

Admitting that there were existing arrangements for exchange of information through negotiating bilateral agreements, the submission said that bilateral agreements were not always easy to enter into, and at times, they were limited in nature.

It is also not possible to have bilateral agreements with all countries on account of logistical limitations or due to unwillingness of either party to enter into such an agreement, the paper said.

The current negotiations present an opportunity to provide a multilateral underpinning to customs cooperation which would complement the existing bilateral cooperation mechanisms, the paper said.

The exchange of requested information may not involve any additional burden in terms of resources to the requested administration, as most of the information could be readily obtained from the export or import documentation, the paper pointed out. In a few cases where the supporting documents is requested, the same is usually in the possession of the requested administration as it is submitted by the trader for processing the entry documents, it added.

For making such requests, a time limit could be considered to avoid any hardship for retrieving old documents.

The procedure to be followed for the proposed exchange of information could be through a nodal agency to be designated by each customs administration and notified to the WTO. The designated nodal agency would be required to confirm that all necessary internal checks have been carried out within the country of import or export, as the case may be.