Trade Information Portal Pakistan (TIPP) is the one stop shop for all import and export related information. The TIPP is hosted by Pakistan Single Window Company on behalf of all government agencies involved in the import/export process. On this portal, traders will be able to obtain information on all the regulatory requirements that they must meet to carry out their transactions. These regulatory requirements may involve a number of government agencies.
A number of countries have introduced or are planning to introduce a trade information portal as a means of facilitating trade and increasing transparency.
For members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) or countries in the process of joining the WTO, a Trade Information Portal (TIP) will help to comply with new commitments being negotiated under the Doha development round.
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The negotiations aim to strengthen the provisions of Article X of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which currently requires that all trade-related regulatory information “be published promptly so as to enable governments and merchants to take note of it”. ”.
In many developing countries, websites specific to government agencies may not exist and even where they do, they are often incomplete, outdated, or the content may not cover the full range of information a trader can wish to obtain to ensure compliance with import rules, export or transit requirements. It is therefore desirable to create a single platform where all the trade-related information from all the different agencies is under one roof and is easily available for searching and viewing. However, despite many efforts and, in some cases, intergovernmental agreements, many countries still lack an effective and sustainable trade information portal. Many fail to take the user’s perspective into account and provide step-by-step how-to guides and answer key questions relevant to traders. Some have limited or outdated content and are difficult to use and navigate. Often established in developing countries under a project funded by international development partners, their quality often declines after the project ends.
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What is the TIPP? The Trade Information Portal of Pakistan (TIPP) is a website that displays the latest and comprehensive import, export and transit trade regulatory information for any item/HS code, as well as useful statistical data for international commerce.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is an excellent opportunity for the TIPP to demonstrate its usefulness to traders by providing timely information on rapidly changing rules and procedures, especially those relating to trade in emergency goods. Trade information portals offer a range of benefits. It improves transparency and access to a wide range of information, which can be essential for making trade and investment decisions. Under Article X of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) transparency commitment, Pakistan was to establish a trade information portal. Later, under Article 1.2 of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), Pakistan committed to implement the TIPP by March 31, 2022.
Every piece of information made available in TIPP has been collected and validated from the 77 Other Government Agencies (OGAs) listed in Schedule I of the PSW Act 2021. The regulatory content has been digitized and connected to the Pakistan Customs Tariff (codes SH) creating thousands of links to legal documents (all relevant laws, rules, regulations and ordinances, etc.), procedures, measures, products, forms, fee schedules, etc. single click.
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Context of TIP in Pakistan: Past attempts to develop a trade information portal in Pakistan have not yielded results. Since PSW was part of its system, the development effort had already done most of the work for TIPP as part of its Integrated Fare Management System (ITMS), so it was decided to help the government to respect its international commitment. With support from USAID, international experts were hired in April 2021 and the TIP-related toolkit was obtained free of charge from the World Bank. Since then, all 77 OGAs as well as private sector stakeholders have been engaged by a dedicated PSW team to undertake the task of content collection, validation and upload.
TIPP maintenance mechanism: Pakistan Single Window Company (PSWC) has put in place a robust governance model for the maintenance, management and support of the TIPP. This TIPP Management Team (TMT) housed at PSW Headquarters is responsible for maintaining and updating the portal, liaising with OGAs and briefing and advising the PSWC Board on the TIPP management. Collaboration between all stakeholders is ensured through the principles and commitments set out in the MoU to be signed prior to launch in March 2022.
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Additional features beyond meeting the TFA commitment: TIPP has been designed from the perspective of traders, overseas Pakistanis and potential investors who will get the latest and authentic information. The TIPP will also provide the latest trade statistics, trade agreements and list of offers available to Pakistani exporters in international markets for preferential market access. The TIPP will enable them to make informed decisions while undertaking cross-border business transactions without the need for intermediaries. Moreover, TIPP offers guided journeys for visitors through its user-friendly interface available in English and Urdu to attract maximum visitors and investors.
The PSW has engaged all public and private sector actors since the start of the TIPP project. Several awareness/engagement webinars and seminars were held during the project lifecycle. Two national-level workshops were held in Karachi and Islamabad. As part of its outreach plan, the TIPP project team is undertaking an extensive roadshow to visit all major chambers of commerce and trade bodies across the country ahead of the official launch of the TIPP. It is hoped that these measures will improve trade facilitation in the country.
(Brief prepared by Umair Mehmood Siddiqui, Deputy Director (Pakistan Single Window), Federal Board of Revenue. The article is excerpted from FBR’s 2021/2022 Semi-Annual Report.)