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Effective Monday, July 20, importers applying for permits from the Trade Board Limited (TBL), must do so through the Jamaica Single Window for Trade (JSWIFT) facility, in keeping with the thrust to improve trade efficiency.

The TBL will cease accepting new applications, as part of the phased digitisation of State Border Regulatory Agencies (BRAs), facilitating import and export related engagements under the JWIFT initiative.

This is geared towards streamlining and enhancing the services provided, says JSWIFT Project Manager, André Williams.

The regime’s introduction follows a similar arrangement for exports, which came into effect on June 22.

“So, where permits have to be obtained prior to the importation or exportation of items requiring a permit from TBL… that service will be subsumed into the single window,” Mr. Williams points out.

The new arrangement will facilitate traders importing commodities, such as motor vehicles, white-refined sugar for manufacturing or the retail market, bulk cement, milk powder and machinery, among other commodities.

JSWIFT, for which the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) is the lead implementing agency, is an electronic platform providing traders and their representatives with fully automated access to BRAs, thereby enabling clients to conduct business transactions online.

Upon full implementation, this ‘one-stop-shop’ facility will allow clients to apply for licences, permits, certificates and any other international trade-related documents through a single portal.

TBL, an agency under the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF), is the regulatory agency designated as Jamaica’s certifying authority for goods imported and exported under various trade agreements.

It is the first of 20 entities whose operations are being digitised under JSWIFT during fiscal years 2020/21 and 2021/22.

Mr. Williams, who is also the JCA’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), tells JIS News that another feature of the new regime will be the revamping of the existing semi-automated application process to facilitate simultaneous submission of the supporting documents by clients.

“Currently, while the importer/trader applies for the import permit online, the supporting documents are submitted manually to the Trade Administrator/Trade Board Assessor for reviewing and approval and, thereafter, conveyed to the JCA’s Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) to facilitate clearance of the goods,” he informs.

The CIO advises that the new arrangements will see the supporting documents either being submitted online with the application, or referenced by the trader.

“So, if the imports are, for example, used motor vehicles, the supporting documents would include the importer’s invoice, the export certificate, and the pre-inspection certificate, where applicable. These will be uploaded to the system, which also facilitates online payment of the requisite fees,” he further outlines.

Mr. Williams says once the prerequisites have been fulfilled, the application and supporting documents will be routed in real-time to the Trade Board Assessor for reviewing and approval and, thereafter, conveyed to the ASYCUDA for clearance of the goods.

He further notes that if additional information is required of the applicant, there are provisions for requesting same via the ‘query process’ that will facilitate the conveyance of the requests and responses electronically.

Mr. Williams points out that harmonisation of BRA systems under the upgraded process will facilitate the collation of, and access to information pertaining to the items being imported.

“On the Customs side, once you receive that electronic permit, the Customs Broker who represents the interest of that trader, will now need to only reference the permit number which, for example, in the case of motor vehicle imports, will populate the motor vehicle information page,” he explains.

The CIO points out that the current regime entails the re-entering of this information at each stage of the process for each shipment of imports, describing this as a “very tedious task.”

“But with the change, persons will only be referencing the information, which will be populating the respective pages. So, that information will now only be documented once, and will also serve to expedite the process, [making] it much more efficient and less prone to human error, because we will now be validating the information from source,” he informs.

Mr. Williams acknowledges that the turnaround time for the existing import arrangement is lengthy, and attributes this largely to the prevailing semi-automated process, incorporating the electronic submission of the application and manual delivery of the supporting documents.

“When you enable both components… the electronic application and supporting documentation submission… as a single service, it makes it a much easier process for the assessor to review the application and indicate whether more information is needed or the application is satisfactory,” he tells JIS News.

“So, you’re talking about a massive difference there… and that is, indeed, going to be saving a tremendous amount of time, because all of the information will now be available to the TBL Assessor,” the CIO points out.

Mr. Williams says consultations have already been held with a number of importers and exporters to sensitise them on the new arrangements.

He further advises that as the implementation of the system progresses, “we are going to be discussing and agreeing to some Service Level Agreements (SLAs), in terms of what is the established processing time… and that will be communicated to the traders.”

“Our objective is to meet the needs of the traders… and to further simplify the services toward reducing the overall processing timeline for both imports and exports,” Mr. Williams adds.

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