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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has approved the establishment of a national single window (NSW) for managing Pakistan’s external trade, a senior official told Dawn on Thursday.

The premier took the decision to take away the power of managing trade from the Ministry of Commerce following informal consultation with internal and external experts.

The official said the decision was taken after complaints about cumbersome import/export procedures involving numerous government entities.

The Customs are going to be the lead agency in the NSW. They have already made in-house preparations to take over the regulation of external trade.

Over the years, the single window has become a core instrument to facilitate trade, simplify procedures and implement electronic business. Around 50 countries have implemented the NSW system.

Pakistan has ratified the trade facilitation agreement with the World Trade Organisation and the NSW is one of the steps in that direction.

According to the official, the prime minister was not happy with the performance of the commerce ministry. The official said manual processing of documents related to cross-border trade leads to malpractices, frauds and discretion.

The prime minister’s secretariat directed the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman to move a summary with specific proposals on timelines, stakeholders’ contact points and national steering committee for a smooth rollout of the NSW.

The NSW is an important issue because the country is moving towards major economic and trade initiatives like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation and Community Investment Tax Relief.

As per the prime minister’s directives, the FBR will immediately start consultation for the establishment of an information and communications technology -based NSW for cross-border trade. All stakeholders must be consulted, trained and integrated in the NSW in a structured manner, the official said.

According to the premier’s directive, all regulatory bodies will retain their respective powers while their functions will be carried out through electronic access to the NSW. The proposed window will provide a comprehensive solution for imports, exports, transit trade, trade through border customs stations and air cargo.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2017