All trade with China suspended at Sost Port as traders protest new custom rules

Sust Port Customs

ISLAMABAD: Importers and exporters in Pakistan have suspended all kinds of trade with China via the land route at Sost Port in protest against the introduction of new customs rules under which transactions and clearances are done through a computerized system.

“The online clearance and processing of shipments are being introduced in an area where internet is not available. How can exporters and importers ensure the compliance of the system being launched here when the area is deprived of internet facility,” said the leaders of Gilgit Baltistan chambers of commerce while announcing suspension to trade with China from Wednesday (today).

According to them, the customs officials are introducing an online clearing system, WEBOC, at the Sost border despite the fact that the area lacks internet facility. Besides, importers, exporters and traders are unaware of the new system.

The chambers of commerce of different districts, traders associations, custom clearances agents association and other trade bodies have jointly decided to suspend the trade for an indefinite time.

According to a leading importer, like other ports of the country, the custom officials are introducing the WEBOC system, an online webportal to file import/export GD for mandatory customs clearance required for processing of containers upon its arrival. This is a step towards making a paper-less environment and to minimise interaction between importers and exporters and customs officials. However, the issue of the absence of internet facility in the Khunjrab area of GB has been making the introduction of the online system very difficult.

Talking about another major reason to boycott the import and export in Gilgit Baltistan (GB), GB Chambers of Commerce President Nasir Ali Raki, said, taxation system in GB was unacceptable for the exporters and importers of the area. “If Gwadar can be declared as tax free zone under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), why not GB, which the gateway of the corridor? All trade bodies here have decided to keep the bilateral trade suspended until the area is treated in the same way Gwadar is being treated,” he said while talking to Pakistan Today.

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He said as the people of the area have stood against imposition taxes and successfully forced the government to withdraw the unlawful taxes, another movement will be started in favor of declaring the area a tax free zone under CPEC. “We are consulting the political parties to make the move successful. We will not let any container to cross the border until the lawful demands of traders are met,” Raki said.

It may recall here that the Khunjerab Pass was reopened for trade and travel between Pakistan and China on April 1, after remaining closed for four months owing to snowfall. Under an agreement between Pakistan and China, the border is usually closed on Nov 30 and reopens on April 1 every year. The dry port will be made all weather keeping it opened for trade throughout the year once the commercial trade under CPEC starts on this route.

Soon after the reopening of the land route, local traders had complained about not being issued passes to start import and export activity by the local government for issuance of computerized passes. Officials at GB Government had claimed that a project had been launched to issue computerized border passes. “The format of border pass will be changed from manual to computerized till the end of May,” they said, adding they had already informed Chinese authorities and the foreign office about the development.

SOURCE: https://profit.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/04/10/all-trade-with-china-suspended-at-sost-port-as-traders-protest-new-custom-rules/

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