Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday said it is in the larger interest of every country to ensure that trade barriers are brought down and trade facilitation is done to the largest extent possible within the domestic legal framework.
“Trade barriers will have an impact on transactional costs,” Jaitley said. Any delay adds to the costs, takes away competitiveness, and domestic economies themselves start suffering, he said while stating that trading across national boundaries is an “economic imperative of our times” and that barriers to free trade should be dismantled. Jaitley’s comments come amid growing concerns over tariff wars across the world, especially after the US initiated a slew of actions against select goods to address its trade balance with select countries, including a few items like steel from the country. “Trading across borders is an economic imperative of our times and this is going to increase with the times to come,” Jaitley said at the 80th World Customs Organisation Policy Commissionerate meeting here through a video link.
“It is in the larger interest of every country to make sure that trade barriers are brought down to the extent it is possible,” he said. The minister said no country can manufacture all goods or specialise in rendering all services which are needed by consumers wanting the best quality at the lowest prices, therefore the need for open trade.
Nations across the world are now realising that increased trade helps not just the global economy but also its own economy, he noted. He also affirmed the Centre’s commitment to improving trade facilitation across borders and also adopt the best practices across the world.
The Finance Minister said there was a lack of clarity on the issue when trade facilitation came up initially in 1996 on the agenda of global trade talks. Despite this, every country was in due course compelled to realise that the matter needs attention. By 2014, most countries had come to agree on the importance of trade facilitation and that WTO had finally reached an agreement as regards trade facilitation, he said.
Revenue Secretary AB Pandey said focus of customs clearances is now on simplification in procedures, reduction in time and cost and transparency in rules. The WCO theme of ‘Smart borders for seamless trade, travel and transport’ aligns well with the whole-of-border approach that is shaping India’s current customs policy, he said.
S Ramesh, Chairman, Central Board of Indirect Taxes, said that trade facilitation was high on the list of priorities at the session. “All countries are geared up to discuss trade facilitation. We are also planning to integrate small island nations and bring them into global trade facilitation,” he said. Ramesh added that the central government had also announced a contribution of Rs. 5 crore to the WCO for capacity building.