The Nigerian Committee on Trade Procedures (NITPRO) was established in 1977 following a United Nations mandate through the Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (CEFACT) recommendation four (4) that all Member States set up a body to facilitate trade/commerce. In response to the above, NITPRO was therefore established as a Federal Government Inter-Ministerial Committee under the auspices of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC). Membership of the Committee comprises trade related organizations from both the public and private sector. The NEPC hosts the Secretariat and provides both the Chairman and Secretary.
Trade Facilitation is a multifunctional, multidimensional and challenging subject which encompasses the simplification and standardization of procedures and associated information flows required to move goods internationally from seller to buyer and to pass payment in the other direction. It is based on internationally accepted standards, norms and practices and involves improvement not only in physical infrastructure and facilities, but also in harmonization of applicable laws and regulations.
Trade facilitation is aimed at reducing the transaction costs and complexities involved in international trade and improving the trading environment in a country thereby enhancing government control as well as revenue generation. In fact, it seeks to establish a transparent, consistent and predictable environment for border transactions based on Simplification and Standardization of practices in customs procedures and documentation requirements, cargo and transit operations and transport conventions and arrangements. The cross-sectoral nature of trade facilitation therefore calls for close co-ordination between trade operators and service providers on the one hand, and customs and various trade related ministries and regulating agencies on the other.
The main objectives of NITPRO are as follows:
- to study and recommend improved and simplified trade procedures and documentations in Nigeria with a view to eliminate factors that impede external trade;
- to streamline trade procedures to meet national and international requirements;
- to harmonize Nigeria’s trade procedures and documentations with the United Nations system and other international standards.
To achieve these objectives, NITPRO is to vigorously undertake and pursue the following activities:
- Highlighting problems and constraints impeding the free flow of international trade in Nigeria;
- Promoting the simplification of documentation and procedures for import and export trade in Nigeria;
- Coordinating work on facilitation of trade procedures and documentations in Nigeria;
- Identifying issues affecting the cost and efficiency of Nigerian International Trade;
- Developing measures to reduce costs and improve efficiency of international trade by the application of the UN Layout Key and guidelines for designing trade documents;
- Assisting in the implementation of trade facilitation measures;
- Providing a national focal point for collection and dissemination of information on best practices in international trade;
- Participating in international efforts such as meetings, seminars and Workshops to improve trade facilitation and efficiency;
- Improving existing trade facilitation efforts in Nigeria;
- Educating stakeholders on current developments and requirements in export/import business;
- Being constantly abreast of current developments in international trade tools and standards with particular reference to e-commerce and the United Nations specialized agencies; and
- Providing an avenue for cross fertilization of ideas and exchange of views between various trade facilitating agencies in Nigeria and abroad so as to finding solutions to identified problems thereby improve Nigeria’s export trade performance.
NITPRO & THE UN/CEFACT
The United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UNCEFACT) was established in 1996 in response to new technological developments in the area of international trade. It is located in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and has developed a centre of excellence in trade facilitation within the United Nations system. The UNCEFACT’s ultimate goal is the worldwide facilitation of international trade through the simplification of improved business and administrative processes, procedures and information flows.
It is therefore no surprise that since inception, NITPRO has been affiliated with the UNCEFACT and attends the International Trade and Business Processes Group (TBG) meetings. The TBGs are specialized working groups who initiate developments in the areas of process analysis, best practices and international trade procedures. The benefits for trade facilitation practitioners in attending these meetings is to enable them have an in-depth knowledge of available trade facilitation tools, standards, trends and practices so as to be able to advance similar initiatives in their respective countries.
SCOPE OF NITPRO’S ACTIVITIES
The increasing development of e-commerce worldwide has recognized the need to provide simplified trade related regulations and provide easier, friendlier trade environment which is beneficial to both sellers and buyers alike. The world is fast moving from paper-based document exchange towards an electronic and paperless trade environment. This is especially important because there is increasing demand for fast, just-in-time delivery to enable business partners maintain smooth operations without having to maintain costly inventories.
In order to achieve its statutory functions, NITPRO is expected to carry out the following activities among others:
- make proposals on appropriate goals to facilitate trade to decision-makers;
- examine and simplify trade procedures and methods;
- coordinate and promote trade facilitation matters;
- carry out programmes in trade facilitation;
- analyze and recommend implementation of trade facilitation measures;
- increase awareness in trade facilitation issues through publications, consultations and specific programmes;
- participate in international work on trade facilitation;
- review international conventions related to trade;
- continuous review of trade procedures and systems with a view to ensuring simplification and harmonization;
- collect and disseminate information on international trade formalities, procedures, documentation and related matters;
- provide expertise on international rules and best practices on trade facilitation;
- provide training on trade facilitation concept, programmes, etc.
Since inception of NITPRO, we have recorded the following achievements, among others:
- The design of Form NXP currently in use in the country
- Significant effort was made at aligning Nigeria’s trade documents with the United Nations Layout Key (UNLK) resulting in 50% compliance. The UNLK is a documentary framework which provides a substantial degree of standardization but allows flexibility for national adaptations. NITPRO received commendations from the UNCEFACT Secretariat for this effort.
- Active participation at the International Trade Procedures Working Group (ITPWG-TBG15) meetings.
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