Last update: Sat, 13 Feb 2016 01pm

Pak-Afghan trade: EDI system to be launched by March

Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to officially launch the much-awaited Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) system by March 2015 aimed at sharing customs documents between customs officials of the two countries, well informed sources in Commerce Ministry told Business Recorder. The top officials of Pakistan and Afghanistan discussed transit trade issues faced by the private sector of the two countries in detail at a recent meeting of Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Co-ordination Authority (APTTCA) held in Islamabad.

Officials of both the countries reached an agreement that the Pakistani side will forward a draft of technical proposal of EDI up to 8th January 2015. On receipt, the Afghan side will examine the document and provide its comments within two weeks (January 9-22, 2015). The Pakistani side will examine Afghan side's response within one week (January 23-29, 2015).

It was also agreed that both sides will complete all software/hardware requirements for the EDI implementation within two weeks (January 30-February 12, 2015). Both sides will deploy the new EDI system and testing phase will start from February 20, 2015. The full implementation of EDI will start from March 1, 2015 at Torkham and Chaman and exchange of data will be through XML messaging. Other Customs stations will be added to the EDI system with mutual concurrence by the two Customs Administrations.

After one month, an audit either by the technical team of the two Customs Administration or mutually agreed third party, will be conducted to point out any lacunae/shortcomings and to propose appropriate solutions accordingly. In case, EDI audit is delayed for any reason, EDI system will continue to operate. After 30 days of the implementation EDI system will replace manual transmission of manual documents ie, cross-border certificate, T-1, issued against GD & certificate of checkpost for the release of Customs guarantee at Karachi if any discrepancies are found in the data, the Afghan trader will have to provide the manual documents at Karachi for the release of guarantees.

The Afghan side revealed that traders' registration in the WeBOC system has started in the Ministry of Commerce & Industries Afghanistan through the ID provided by the FBR. The Afghan side also revealed that under "Edit" more options are required to be provided to tackle issues such as reset password of the trader, modify email address of the trader, blocking of the black-listed traders, and cancellation of registration. The Pakistani side agreed to modify the WeBOC Registration Module appropriately so that the above-stated options are available to the Ministry of Commerce, Afghanistan.

On WeBOC training, it was agreed that the Pakistani side will provide trainers to Afghanistan or run training programs through video links. The Pakistani side also agreed to train Afghan officials and traders on WeBOC system at Karachi.

Pakistan revealed that partial shipment has already been allowed under SRO 121 (1) 2014 on case to case basis. On request from the Afghan side, Pakistan agreed that necessary changes in the WeBOC system will be incorporated by February 2015 to allow system-based partial shipments for all transit goods rather than case to case manual arrangement in place now.

Both sides discussed various options to reduce time and cost in transit trade including 100% scanning, installation of trackers on prime movers and containers and multiple guarantees, the sources continued. After a detailed discussion, both sides agreed that requirement of scanning of Afghan transit cargo will be reduced to 20% subject to risk profiling and introduction of Risk Management System(RMS). It was agreed that RMS will be established within next three months.

It was also agreed that cost of trackers on prime movers will not be charged from importers. This cost will be borne by the bonded carrier companies. Moreover, Pakistan Customs will try to reduce the cost of trackers on containers. Officials of both countries reached an agreement that there will be a single revolving guarantee charged from the importers and number of bonded carriers to handle Afghan transit cargo will be increased to provide competition and thereby reduce cost.

"The condition for one consignment of one carrier will be relaxed. One consignment on two carriers or two consignments on one carrier will be allowed," the sources continued. The Pakistani side revealed that Afghan registered trucks are allowed to carry fruits and vegetables up to Wahga for export to India on a Letter of Guarantee (LoG) issued by Ministry of Transport & Civil Aviation, Afghanistan. They agreed that necessary amendments will be made in the rules to include all exports rather than only fruits and vegetables.

The Pakistani side agreed to allow Afghan truck holding letters of guarantee to go up to Wahga by 20th January 2015. The Afghan side further proposed that all types of financial securities pertaining to the entry/movement of commercial vehicles would be waived off on a reciprocal basis to boost the trade. The Pakistani side agreed that the proposal examined and will be decided in the next APTTCA meeting.

The Pakistani side further held out a commitment that on their way back Afghan trucks can pick up export cargo from Pakistan to Afghanistan. However, it was clarified that in terms of Article 21 (b) of Protocol I to APTTA, 2010, which deals with the matters of transportation to or from third country which is not signatory of APTTA, transportation of goods to or from third country is only allowed in case both the contracting states (Pakistan and Afghanistan) have transportation of goods agreement with that third non-contracting state (India). Since there is no such agreement, hence, the Afghan request to carry their goods beyond Wahga is not tenable under APTTA, 2010.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2015