India will operationalise single window customs clearance from April 1 and allow deferred payments to importers as part of a trade facilitation pact of the World Trade Organisation.

“The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) is already working on a pilot for single window customs clearance at 13 air and sea ports in the country. We hope to roll it out from April 1 and we will gradually expand it to all ports,” said Najib Shah, Chairman, CBEC.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had in the Budget proposed to amend the Customs Act to provide for deferred payment of customs duties for importers and exporters with proven track record as well as implement the Indian Customs Single Window Project.

New mechanism Importers will be able to get clearance from most regulators including food safety, plant quarantine, textiles and drugs through the new mechanism, which will also cut down their dwell time by 50- 60 per cent.

Shah said the single window customs clearance will help reduce costs for importers as well as fast-forward their shipments. Deferring customs duty payments is not a mandatory requirement under the Trade Facilitation Agreement but is a key recommendation, Shah added.

“Most advanced countries however, do provide the facility,” he said.

Cabinet approval India, through a decision of the Union Cabinet on February 17, had approved the Notification of Commitments under the TFA, which aims to expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit.

To facilitate implementation of the agreement, the government will also set up a committee that would be chaired jointly by the Commerce and Revenue Secretaries.

The TFA will be operationalised once two-thirds of the WTO members complete their domestic ratification process.