The Time Release Study (TRS), recognised by World Customs Organization (WCO), is a systematic and standard method to measure the average time taken to release cargoes and for each step or intervention in a border procedure. In an attempt to improve the global trade, India’s first-ever National Time Release Study was conducted by the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance. The first phase was held from 1st to 7th August 2019 and the second phase lasted from 3rd – 9th September 2019. Considering its cascading effect on overall global trade of Indian companies, the TRS shall be institutionalised on an annual basis around the same period, every year. This brings us to question and understand the Time Release Study in detail and how can businesses benefit due to the same.
What is Time Release Study?
With the global trade becoming a norm, there has been a dramatic change in the cross border trade in recent years. The parties at both sides of the trade prefer international corridors where the release time for goods is lesser and the procedure is simpler. Hence, to enhance cross border trade, governments are focussing on optimising the regulatory processes to reduce the time required for trade-related procedures.
Time Release Study, a strategic and internationally recognized tool, is used to measure the actual time required for the release and/or clearance of goods, from the time of arrival at borders until the physical release of cargo. A TRS thereby measures relevant aspects of the effectiveness of operational procedures that are carried out by Customs and other regulatory actors in the standard processing of imports, exports and in transit movements.
It seeks to measure these elements of trade flows with accuracy so that related decisions aimed at improving such performance can be properly conceived and implemented.
The WCO TRS is specifically referenced in Article 7.6 of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) as a tool for members to measure and publish the average release time of goods.
Why was Time Release Study conducted in India?
Earlier, individual customs formations used to conduct independent TRS study at port level. However now, the process across the ports has been unified and a uniform, a multi-dimensional methodology has been made available at all ports. This uniformity will help In the long run to measure the ease of cargo clearance and average release time of goods.
The study was instituted at 15 ports (Sea, Air, Land and Dry Ports) across the nation, at the same time. These ports cumulatively account for 81% of total Bills of Entries for import and 67% of Shipping Bills for exports filed within India.
The Time Release Study has been conducted to help officials identify and address the bottlenecks in the trade flow process. This will help the government to make industry-friendly port policies and operational measures. This is an important aspect to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of border procedures, without hampering the efficiency of the trade control.
With national TRS, a baseline performance measurement will be established, thereby standardizing the operations and procedures across the ports. Furthermore, the TRS initiative will help in improving the Ease of Doing Business (EODB), particularly on the trading across borders indicator. The indicator measures the adeptness of the cross-border trade ecosystem.
Who will benefit from the Annual Time Release Study?
‘The baseline data from the study can be used to determine the efficiency of customs clearance and streamline the border trade process. The expected outcomes include a reduction in the duplication of forms, reduced time (for goods to clear Customs) and improved system of information sharing amongst agencies,’ as per World Bank.
Advance cargo reporting, information for small and medium-sized traders, regulatory harmonisation, data harmonisation and risk management are all potential areas for improvement highlighted in worldwide TRS studies.
Thus the outcome of the Time Release study will be very beneficial for the export-oriented industries as well as the Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME). With TRS in place, the industry will witness standardization of trade processes in the country viz-a-viz international standards.
TRS can be used for assessment of performance in terms of supply chain efficiencies and the integration of border procedures between two countries. It provides Customs, other border agencies, businesses and policymakers with baseline data relating to the supply chain and integration of border procedures. It also serves as a performance measurement tool for these two purposes, if undertaken on a regular basis.
How will Time Release Study help exporters and importers in India:
The main focus of the WCO TRS is the clearance time at the border, although it is also applicable to the time required for processes related to documentation and to the time taken for intervention. With TRS implemented at ports as of now, the study will help companies dealing in port transactions. Few ways how TRS will help the businesses:
- Measuring the time taken at various points for the release of goods will help to address the concerns of trade circles regarding long delays in Customs clearance.
- TRS will help companies who are in need of advance planning for the movement of goods across borders in order to meet tight production schedules and just-in-time inventory systems.
- The international trading community assesses the time required to release goods to measure the effectiveness of a Customs administration. A lesser release time will enhance trade relationships of Indian companies.
TRS around the Globe
Many international institutions and donors such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) recognize the usefulness of WCO TRS and favour its implementation. Many of these donors have been even helping the recipients to conduct TRS.
The international donor community and the WCO development partners have been recommending it as a key performance measure to assess, evaluate, and enhance the implementation of the WTO TFA. The TRS is being increasingly used by WCO Members around the globe, for ability in drafting strategic plans and the proper sequencing of Trade TFA measures in accordance with their National Committees on Trade Facilitation (NCTF).
IRIS has been a preferred service provider to many companies that deal with export and import of goods. Multiple reforms have been introduced in recent times like Direct Port Delivery Scheme, automated refunds for exporters, auto-registration of ICEGATE etc. to support exporters. We believe that businesses should keep an eye on TRS results over the years, as many forms may get simplified and many procedural changes can be expected.
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Reference: World Customs Journal