The Customs authorities will release goods imported under the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) by accepting online submissions of the certificates of origin (CoO) instead of the paper-based CoO till December 31.
The National Board of Revenue (NBR) recently asked the customs houses to release SAFTA goods after verifying the electronic CoO on the websites of the certificate issuing countries.Customs officials were also asked to crosscheck the signatures of issuing officers with the specimen signatures preserved at the customs houses, according to an NBR order.
Officials said that earlier on May 10, the NBR offered the facility following a request made by the commerce ministry to facilitate cross-border trade during the Covid-19 pandemic. The deadline expired on June 30.
The commerce ministry on July 29 again requested the NBR to extend the facility as the coronavirus situation was yet to improve in the region. The expiration of the facility created complexity releasing more than 50 import containers got stuck at the Chattogram port as the Chattogram Customs House declined to accept the digital certificate without a written order from the NBR as the deadline had expired.
The containers had remained stuck at the port for about one month. India also requested to accept the digital CoO as the country is not issuing any hard copies of the CoO with the concerned office operating on a limited scale.
The tenure of the facility has been extended up to December 31 to keep cross-border trade uninterrupted, said the order signed by NBR second secretary (customs international trade and agreement) Akter Hossain.
Officials said that importers now would be able to have their goods released through furnishing an online CoO.The customs authorities will conduct temporary customs assessments during the period. As per provisions of the SAFTA agreement signed between eight SAARC countries, all countries have to submit the original hard copy of the CoO manually at the time of customs assessment and release of imported goods from the customs point.