The Trade Information Portal of Pakistan (TIPP) is the single-stop point for all information relating to import and export. The TIPP is hosted by the Pakistan Single Window Company on behalf of all the Government agencies involved in the import/export process. On this portal, traders will be able to get information about all the regulatory requirements they need to fulfill in order to carry out their transactions. These regulatory requirements may involve a number of government agencies.
A number of countries have introduced or are considering the introduction of a trade information portal as a means of facilitating trade and increasing transparency.
For World Trade Organization (WTO) members or countries in the process of acceding to the WTO, a Trade Information Portal (TIP) will assist in complying with new commitments currently being negotiated as part of the Doha Development Round.
The negotiations aim to strengthen the provisions of Article X of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which currently requires that all regulatory trade related information “shall be published promptly in such a manner as to enable governments and traders to become acquainted with them”.
In many developing nations, government agency specific websites may not exist and even when they do they are often incomplete, out of date, or the content may not cover the entire spectrum of information that a trader may wish to obtain to ensure compliance with import, export, or transit requirements. It is therefore desirable to create a single platform where all the information relating to trade from all the various agencies is aggregated under one roof and is readily available for searching and viewing. However, despite much effort and, in some cases, inter-governmental agreements, many countries still lack an effective and sustainable Trade Information Portal. Many fail to take the user’s viewpoint and do not provide practical step-by-step guides, nor answer key questions relevant to traders. Some have limited or outdated content and are difficult to use and navigate. Often established in developing countries as part of a project funded by international development partners, their quality will often slip after the project ends.
What is TIPP? The Trade Information Portal of Pakistan (TIPP) is a website that displays latest and complete regulatory information related to imports, exports and transit trade for any item/HS code as well as useful statistical data for international trade.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is an excellent opportunity for TIPP to demonstrate its usefulness to traders in providing timely information on quickly changing rules and procedures, in particular those relating to the trade of emergency goods. Trade Information Portals deliver a range of benefits. It enhances transparency and access to a wide array of information, which can be pivotal in making decisions related to trade and investments. Under Article X of General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT) Commitment to Transparency Pakistan had to establish Trade Information Portal. Later on under Article 1.2 of WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) Pakistan had committed to implement the TIPP by 31 March 2022.
Each piece of information made available in TIPP has been collected and validated from the 77 Other Government Agencies (OGAs) as listed in Schedule-I of PSW Act 2021. The regulatory content has been digitized and connected with Pakistan Customs Tariff (HS Codes) creating thousands of linkages to Legal Documents (all relevant laws, rules, regulations and orders etc), Procedures, Measures, Commodities, Forms, Fee Schedules, etc. As such the OGAs, Economic Operators, investors and academia can freely access useful information on a single click.
Background of TIP in Pakistan: Attempts made in the past to develop a trade information portal in Pakistan did not yield result. Since PSW as part of its system, development effort had already done bulk of the work for TIPP under its Integrated Tariff Management System (ITMS) hence it was decided to help the government in meeting its international commitment. With support from USAID, international experts were hired in April 2021 and the TIP related tool kit was obtained from World Bank free of cost. Since then all the 77 OGAs as well as stakeholders from private sector have been engaged by a dedicated team of PSW to undertake the task of content collection, validation and uploading.
TIPP Maintenance Mechanism: Pakistan Single Window Company (PSWC) has placed a robust governance model for the maintenance, management, and support of TIPP. This TIPP Management Team (TMT) housed in PSW HQs is charged with maintaining and updating the portal, liaising with OGAs, and informing and advising Governing Council of PSWC on the management of TIPP. Collaboration among all stakeholders is being ensured through the principles and commitments set out in the MoU to be signed before launch in March, 2022.
Additional Features beyond Fulfillment of TFA commitment: TIPP has been designed from the perspective of traders, Overseas Pakistanis, and potential investors who will get the latest and authentic information. TIPP will also provide latest trade statistics, trade agreements and offer list available to Pakistani exporters in international markets for preferential market access. TIPP will enable them to make informed decisions while undertaking cross-border trade transactions without needing middlemen. Furthermore, TIPP offers guided journeys for visitors through its user-friendly interface available in both English and Urdu in order to attract maximum number of visitors and investors.
The PSW has engaged all public and private sector stakeholders since the inception of the TIPP project. Multiple awareness/engagement webinars and seminars have been arranged during the project life cycle. Two national level workshops have been held in Karachi and Islamabad. As part of its outreach plan the TIPP Project team is undertaking an extensive road show to visit all leading Chambers of Commerce and Trade bodies across the country before formal launch of TIPP. It is hoped that these steps will enhance trade facilitation in the country.
(Brief contributed by Umair Mehmood Siddiqui, Deputy Director (Pakistan Single Window), Federal Board of Revenue. The article is extracted from half year 2021/2022 report of the FBR.)