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Foreign trade becomes environment conscious

By TNC Rajagopalan
May 11, 2009 12:01 IST
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The concerns about environment and public health are slowly gaining ground in the matter of imports and exports also.

The sanitary (relating to food safety) and phytosanitary (animal and plant health) measures are enforced in the course of international trade by various countries to prevent the spread and introduction of any pests, insects or fungus.

In India, the regulations got stringent with Hazardous Waste (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008, in place.

Last September, the environment ministry subjected the import of waste paper to actual user condition and licensing from the commerce ministry.

The Foreign Trade Policy, however, maintained that no licence was required to import waste paper. So the Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) clarified that the Regional Licensing Authorities (RLA) may issue a licence on the basis of a no objection certificate (NOC) from the environment ministry.

Later, the DGFT asked the Customs to carry out a higher percentage physical examination to ensure that no unwanted material was imported under the garb of waste paper and also not to allow unloading of waste paper consignments shipped after April 25, 2009 without a pre-shipment certificate.

Now, the DGFT has further clarified that only the pre-shipment inspection certificates issued by approved agencies, stating that imported material is free from any hazardous waste, including municipal waste and bio-medical waste, should be accepted.

In January, the DGFT asked the Customs not to release ozone depleting substances (ODS), even under advance authorisation, without an NOC from DGFT, and asked the RLA to endorse a condition on the advance authorisations that entire quantity of ODS will be exported out of the country along with manufactured export product and no part of it will be utilised for domestic consumption.

Further, he stopped any import of ODS till 2010, even against valid advance authorisation.

Last month, to ensure that counterfeit drugs do not leave the country, the DGFT asked every exporter of drugs and pharmaceuticals to submit at the time of export, copy of an analysis certificate issued by the manufacturer or by approved laboratory in India or in the importing country.

Now, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has directed that raw or solid wood packaging material for exports must comply with the international standard ISPM No. 15 or be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate issued by accredited agencies.

In case of non-compliance, the matter may be referred to the Plant Quarantine authorities for proper treatment of export goods before their release.

Similarly, in respect of import consignments, the CBEC has reiterated its instructions dated June 3, 2004 that compliance of ISPM-15 standards by wood packaging material may be enforced for wood packaging in terms of Plant Quarantine (Regulation of import into India) Order, 2003.

Consignments that are found to be non-compliant or not carrying prescribed treatment mark on the wood packaging materials shall be referred to the plant quarantine authorities for proper treatment or destruction or deportation to the country of export, says the CBEC.

To get the hazardous waste tested, the CBEC has asked the Customs field formations to utilise the services of laboratories recognised by the environment ministry and also co-ordinate better with the State Pollution Control Boards and Pollution Control Committees.
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TNC Rajagopalan
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