In line with Pakistan’s commitment under Article 10.4 of the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, Pakistan successfully rolled out the first phase of the Pakistan Single Window (PSW) for trade and transportation integrating Pakistan Customs, Department of Plant Protection, Animal Quarantine Department, Federal Seed Certification & Registration Department, Pakistan Standards & Quality Control Authority, and the Export Development Fund. In addition, 29 commercial banks are already integrated with the PSW platform for the exchange of cross-border trade-related financial information in real-time.
The PSW system began rolling out in July 2021 and currently has more than 52,000 registered users. Services currently offered by the system include electronic customs registration, online processing, and issuance of import permits, Phyto-sanitary certificates, release orders and other documents pertaining to the above-mentioned government agencies, and digital payments. Under a major reform initiated in collaboration with the State Bank of Pakistan, digital integration with commercial banks replaced electronic Form ’E’ and Form ‘I’ previously required for each trade transaction. In March 2022 PSW also launched its Trade Information Portal providing a single access point for all information related to imports, exports, and transit also in compliance with Article 1.2 of the TFA. Implementation of the PSW system is supervised by the PSW Governing Council chaired by the Minister of Finance and comprising of the federal secretaries from the key ministries regulating cross-border trade as well as representatives of the private sector.
“Our government is committed to reducing the time and cost of doing business and considers the Pakistan Single Window a significant initiative for digitalizing government processes and regulations pertaining to international trade which will not help reduce the compliance costs for traders but will also provide increased transparency and predictability in cross border trade”, said the Minister of Finance and Revenues Miftah Ismail in a statement issued from his office. He added, “I am confident that PSW initiative will help our exporters in reducing their compliance costs and thereby enhancing the competitiveness of Pakistan’s exports.” The Finance Minister congratulated the Pakistan Single Window team on achieving yet another of Pakistan’s international commitments under the WTO TFA in time and said that this system will enhance Pakistan’s export competitiveness and integration with the international supply chain”.
The PSW initiative was launched in 2017 with Pakistan Customs as the designated lead agency. The system is being developed and rolled out in phases by the PSW Company which is the notified ‘Operating entity’ for the PSW system under the provisions of the Pakistan Single Window Act, 2021. “We are proud to have accomplished this significant milestone on the PSW journey in time and wish to commend and congratulate each and every member of the PSW team including those from the participating departments who have contributed to make this happen” stated Syed Aftab Haider, the Chief Executive Officer of the PSW Company. “On behalf of my team I would also like to acknowledge and appreciate the leadership role provided by Pakistan Customs in conceiving and developing the PSW initiative and would like to express my thanks to the State Bank of Pakistan, Ministry of National Food Security & Research, Ministry of Science & Technology, our development partners, and the various trade bodies and associations who embraced the single window concept and provided us crucial support for smooth execution”, he added.
All three departments under the Ministry of National Food Security & Research regulating cross border trade have been digitalized under PSW’s first phase. By eliminating the need for physical submission of paper documents for issuance of various licenses, permits, certificates, and other documents, and aligning border procedures with recommended best practices, PSW intends to facilitate the export of perishable goods and commodities and boost integration of Pakistani businesses with the agricultural value chain.
To prevent any disruption to trade, PSW has adopted an incremental approach towards mandatory use of the system and will be transitioning clearance and regulatory operations at seaports, international airports, dry ports, and border crossings from the manual to the digital system in phases. To ensure smooth implementation, it is conducting training and change management sessions at various locations in collaboration with the concerned trade associations and government departments. The PSW Trader Support Centre is also providing guidance and troubleshooting services to the traders on 24/7 basis.