New Delhi– The National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF), set up to develop the roadmap for implementating the WTO’s trade facilitation agreement held its first meeting here on Friday with Cabinet Secretary P.K.Sinha in the chair, an official statement said.

The NCTF is a mandatory requirement under the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). Its Secretariat is housed in Central Board of Excise and Customs in the Finance Ministry here.

According to a statement by the ministry, addressing the meeting, Sinha said that since the TFA may become a binding agreement shortly, India had to be in a state of readiness.

He summed up the significant areas of the agreement as simplification of procedures, reduction in time and cost, augmentation of infrastructure and greater use of technology.

He also decided that in the initial phase, the NCTF and the steering committee may meet more frequently to firm up the contours of TFA implementation plan, the statement added.

The steering committee, working under NCTF, will be co- chaired by the Revenue and Commerce Secretaries.

It was decided that the next meeting of the NCTF will be held in December and the steering committee will meet twice before that to come-up with specific goals for TFA implementation, the ministry said.

The meeting was attended by all the 24 members of which included secretaries of various ministries like Home, Shipping, Civil Aviation as well industry chambers FICCI and CII.

Addressing the meeting, Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia spoke about the need to do away with the multiplicity of committees looking at trade facilitation at various levels.

He suggested that the NCTF which was now the high-level national body for same could subsume other such committees and become a uniform voice on these issues, the statement said.

Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia emphasized the need for inter ministerial coordination which was seen as being crucial for the successful working of the NCTF, it added. (IANS)