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India has made noticeable progress in ease of cross-border trade, a UN survey that tracked 143 economies on key trade facilitation parameters over a two-year period said.

As per the latest UN Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation, India’s rank moved up from 78.49% in 2019 to 90.32% in 2021. The bi-annual survey exclusively deals with trade facilitation measures taken by individual countries.

Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) said in a communication posted on its website on Monday that the UN survey result was a remarkable improvement in India’s ranking on ‘digital and sustainable trade facilitation.’

CBIC said that the results showed India was among the best performing country in South and south West Asia region and in the Asia Pacific region. India’s overall score has also been found to be higher than many of the OECD countries and the average of EU, it said.

Among developed countries, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Japan and Belgium have scored more than 93%. In South Asia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were behind India with a score of 64.5% and 60.2%, the survey showed.

The survey tracks 58 measures identified with trade facilitation such as facility for electronic submission of declarations and electronic payment of duties and fees and electronic application for refunds which are seen as global best practices. As per the 2021 survey report, India has scored 100% in transparency, 95.83% in formalities, 88.89% in institutional arrangement and cooperation: and 96.30% in paperless trade.

The survey results comes as a boost to policy makers in India trying to improve the country’s attractiveness as a business destination and to capture a larger pie in the global supply chain of goods and services. Boosting cross border trade is a key element of the post-pandemic economic recovery strategy of many nations.

Since the beginning of the pandemic last year, New Delhi has implemented several measures to cut down procedures and the time taken for customs clearance. From 15 July, customs authorities put in place a host of measures to speed up assessment and clearance of shipments in a more anonymous way. This is expected to streamline the faceless assessment scheme rolled out last October and process shipments without direct interface with the merchant.

Simplifying cross-border trade has been a priority for the Narendra Modi administration as it is seen as a key determinant of the ease of doing business in the country. Also, officials are keen to reduce the logistics cost to boost the industry’s competitiveness in world markets. During the second wave of the pandemic, when there was an acute shortage of medical supplies, the authorities put in place a simplified regime for import of relief materials with a focus on quick customs clearance followed by paperwork to be done within a specified time frame. For checking smuggling and tax evasion, CBIC is increasingly relying on technology and data sourced from other regulators such as the income tax department.

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