Cargo clearance procedures will be streamlined to smooth foreign trade and improve the business environment.
The State Council’s executive meeting on May 24 announced that a “single-window system” will be adopted at all ports nationwide by the end of the year, according to a statement released on May 31 after the meeting, which was presided over by Premier Li Keqiang.
The “single window system”, a metaphor to describe streamlined administration efforts, means that all export and import procedures can be done at one stop, a trade facilitation policy that enables faster and easier cargo clearance.
An information-sharing platform will also be set up to reduce documents needed from traders and help realize paperless customs declarations, examinations and tax payments, according to the statement.
Tu Xinquan, a professor at the China Institute for WTO Studies at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, said the new measures are the latest move by China to stimulate imports and exports amid a sluggish global economy, and is also part of the world’s major trading nation’s relentless efforts in streamlining administration in recent years.
“The government has been working out measures to reduce costs for enterprises in recent years, and the new move also aims to reduce costs for enterprises, especially since foreign trade started to face difficulties in recent years,” Tu said. “Once fully implemented, it will save huge amounts in terms of finance, time and human resources for companies.”
Tu calls the “single-window system” a key step toward realizing trade facilitation, adding that the current cargo clearance procedures in most cities are time consuming. For example, he said, companies need to get their goods to both cargo as well as the inspection and quarantine department to finish two examinations before the goods are exported.
“Sometimes companies need to wait in line to get their goods examined, which reduces trade efficiency,” Tu said.
So far, a total of 17 cities in China have realized the “single-window system” in cargo clearance services, including Shanghai, which was the first one to adopt such services, in line with building the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone in 2013.
Tu said the simplified procedures have greatly helped companies in Shanghai, but he believes the system must become nationwide to deliver tangible results.
“Currently, companies in many inland cities in China still have to bring their goods to harbor cities to finish all the required examinations,” Tu said.
The May 24 meeting set the goal to expand the “single-window system” from the current 17 cities to a nationwide one. Tu points out that the key is to establish a comprehensive online data system to track all kinds of information related to trade of goods.
“For example, once the goal is realized, companies in an inland city, such as Guiyang, can finish all the required examinations in their local city. Customs in Shanghai will only have to track all their examination results before export clearance through the online system,” Tu said.
He added that while the move will boost foreign trade, China is also embarking on measures to fulfill its obligation to investment convenience. WTO members concluded negotiations at the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference on the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which came into effect in February.
“China, as a WTO member, needs to fulfill its obligations in effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues required by the treaty.”
Figures from the WTO in April showed that China was still the world’s largest exporter of goods last year. It marked the eighth consecutive year China has kept its position as the world’s largest exporter of goods and the second-largest importer.