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Govt yet to implement TIR convention

Updated November 20, 2016

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ISLAMABAD: With a delay of over 15 months, the government has yet to implement the convention on the International Transport of Goods for traffic-in-transit of goods across borders with countries in the region.

The convention, which Pakistan signed in August 2015, entails no payment of customs duties and taxes. It was ratified by Islamabad in January.

The Convention on International Transport of Goods Under Cover of TIR Carnets (TIR Convention) is a multilateral treaty that was concluded at Geneva on 14 November 1975 to simplify and harmonise the administrative formalities of international road transport. As many as 68 countries have acceded to the TIR convention so far.

An official source told Dawn that the Ministry of Commerce had signed the convention without realisation of shortcomings that exist in the text and might cause harm to Pakistan’s interests.

“This clearly shows the capacity issues of the ministry in handling sophisticated international treaties,” the official said.

A custom official said it took them several months to devise rules for addressing these issues mostly related to adjudication that might arise from the full operationalisation of the convention.

“We have sent the proposed amendments to the commerce ministry,” the official said, adding that they awaiting a response from the ministry.

The treaty did not have provisions for penalties in case of violation, the official said, adding the proposed measures will be made an annexure of the convention in case it was approved.

On the customs side, the official said, rules were already drafted, software was developed and negotiations were at advance stage for insurance guarantees. When asked about the delay in the notification of rules, the official said it will be done after getting go ahead from the ministry of commerce.

Afghanistan has acceded to the TIR convention. After implementation of the convention, Pakistani trucks carrying goods to the Central Asian countries would not pass through the checking process in Afghanistan. The convention would also ensure uninterrupted flows of trucks.

Kabul is demanding that Afghan trucks should be allowed to transport goods to India via Wagha border – demand which is currently not under consideration of Pakistan. As a result of this and other issues, talks between the two countries were also suspended for more than a year.

The TIR convention provides that goods would be accompanied by an internationally accepted Customs document (TIR Carnet), opened in the country of departure and serving as a Customs control document in the countries of departure, transit and destination.

Goods would travel in Customs secure vehicles or containers and throughout the journey, duties and taxes at risk would be covered by an internationally valid guarantee. Customs control measures taken in the country of departure would be accepted by all countries of transit and destination.

After joining the TIR, Pakistan will have access by land/sea from/to China, Central Asian states and beyond, opening a vertical corridor that would benefit regional and global trade and economies, say trade experts. Transit trade with China through the Kashgar-Gwadar corridor will also be facilitated.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2016