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Indian Customs Facilitates India To Escalate From 146 To 80 This Year In World Banks Trading Across Border Indicators

S Ramesh, Chairman, CBIC talks to BW Businessworld on Trade Facilitation (TFA) elaborating on the steps taken by Indian Customs for compliance and facilitation, Block Chain Technology and initiatives which are in tune with WCO’s 2019 theme “Smart Borders for seamless Trade, Travel, and Transport” in conversation with Priyaanka Mathur


The role of customs in not only collecting revenues but also managing the areas of safety, security, and facilitation through its key reforms has proudly made India escalate from 146 to 80 this year in World Banks Trading across Border indicators. 

S Ramesh, Chairman, CBIC talks to BW Businessworld on Trade Facilitation (TFA) elaborating on the steps taken by Indian Customs for compliance and facilitation, Block Chain Technology and initiatives which are in tune with WCO’s 2019 theme “Smart Borders for seamless Trade, Travel, and Transport” in conversation with Priyanka Mathur.

Given the global security environment and a renewed focus on trade facilitation with the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA ) being implemented, the need of the hour is that all the government agencies cooperate more effectively. The blockchain technology may open possibilities for different agencies including customs to share information and resources by using a common distributed platform, especially in a single window environment and for cross-border exchange.

India joins hands in pledging Rs 5 crores fund for capacity building activities of WCO, So what is the future roadmap of WCO? 

“Indian Customs have been playing a very active role in different activities of WCO and conducting of Policy Commission in Mumbai will give a boost to the image of the country in the global platform. WCO is one of the most robust organisations of the world having 180 members, wherein India being the Asia Pacific Vice Chair is taking a leadership role as far as the WCO is concerned. There are 3 important domains in which India would like to show its leadership in WCO, one, of course, is technology and so we are trying to switch all customs administration to go into a smarter customs in terms of operations intelligence, thereby sharing data between various customs organisations and administrations, so that the illicit cross-border trade is minimised that will be a win-win situation for all. We want to bring the island economies of the Asia Pacific region into the global value chain. So it’s important that India shows a leadership role in the Asia Pacific region by enabling customs thereby giving capacity building facilities to help the island economies and making sure that their threats and priorities are addressed by hand holding them in a better way.”

Technology is a challenge for all organisations and for customs, it's no different since there are a lot of transactions so how is Customs coping up the new age technology products like 3D printing and their implications? 

“Technology comes with a lot of new opportunities too, new jobs, new ideas, and at the same time, it comes with a lot of new risks that we have never anticipated before. So for technologies like drone and 3D printing, we need to take care of what are the risks and cross-border implications for the cross-border clearances, what are the risks involved regarding the safety and security of the country and we are having interactions with customs administrations of other countries that we will take forward in this policy commission meeting also.”

Could you tell us about the incorporation of Blockchain technology by WCO?

"Blockchain Technology is a very new concept and its application is a very nascent stage across the globe. This particular WCO conference is trying to find out what the best practices and what are the projects available across the globe by various countries, as far as blockchain technology is concerned. This technology has by itself a lot of new case applications across various sectors, for example, the banking sector and logistics sectors in a very big way. IBM has collaborated on blockchain technology to work for the movement of cargo to different ports to make it seamless for the exchange of information. We are trying to explore possibilities with other countries like South Korea that has started some projects with blockchain and we are studying them. The technology will improve significantly the capacity for risk analysis and targeting, helping to improve business processes and effectively tackling frauds and crimes”

The blockchain technology can be used to validate transactions and actions by different parties in the international supply chain through permission blockchains thereby clearly defining roles, responsibilities, levels of access and rights of validation, that can help customs to tackle problems of compliance as it is essentially an unbiased tool designed for sharing information between unrelated end-to-end integrated supply chain management in a trusted manner. The technology can be explored for the creation of customs declaration documents, inter-agency cooperation and exchange of information, for verification of regulatory requirements, identity management of multiple stakeholders and customers in a supply chain, revenue collection, compliance management, and post-clearance audits.

What are measures taken by customs to tackle issues of cross-border terrorism?

The department of customs looks after cross-border terrorism and illicit trade in a very efficient way and is in touch with all the agencies, for example, the very major achievement of the DRI, the directorate of revenue intelligence of the customs CBIC. Our intelligence is working day and night and was able to understand the developments happening cross borders and or customs department had recently busted the major racket of arms and explosives near the Indo- Pak border which was taken over by the Indian army, which is regarded as the major achievements of the DRI and the CBIC. So, customs is cognizant of whatever risks are there as far as terrorism is concerned. We understand the challenges of terrorism because we deal with travel, people, trade, transport which are the major modes of terrorism, along with keeping an eye to stop illicit financial flows across the borders. 

Could you elaborate more on the Prevention of Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage (PITCH)?

This is one of the most important elements that DRI and department of customs are dealing with. Heritage of the country is very important and so is the prevention of illicit smuggling of our heritage products and artifacts. Customs has also been able to repatriate and bring back whatever artifacts were smuggled from India, back to India.

Tell us about the KYOTO convention?

These are harmonisation of procedures that customs organisations and administration across the globe need to adopt. So we are trying to bring out an updated revised KYOTO convention since it is 12-13 years old now. We are trying to make sure that all the future challenges are dealt with a uniform approach and procedures across all the countries of the world.

The 80th Policy Commission this year being held in Mumbai, discusses the various policy issues of WCO and outcomes of its various working groups and committees. The sessions will have intense debates by all the countries on some of the global cross border topics e.g. Trade Facilitation, Security Initiative, Performance Measurement, Combating Illicit Financial Flows, Small Island Economies, Free Trade Zones etc.

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