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India-Bhutan Joint Group of Customs Meeting Strengthens Bilateral Trade Relations

Leh: The 5th Joint Group of Customs (JGC) meeting between India and Bhutan convened on 6th-7th May, 2024, in Leh, Ladakh, marking a significant milestone in bolstering bilateral trade ties between the two nations. Co-chaired by Surjit Bhujabal, Special Secretary and Member (Customs), Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, Government of India, and Sonam Jamtsho, Director General, Department of Revenue and Customs, Ministry of Finance, Royal Government of Bhutan, the meeting delved into various bilateral issues aimed at enhancing trade facilitation and cooperation.

Key agenda items discussed during the 5th JGC meeting included the opening of new Land Customs Stations and the notification of new trade routes, infrastructure development, automation and digitization of transit processes, prevention of smuggling, coordinated cross-border management, pre-arrival exchange of Customs data, and bilateral agreements on Customs cooperation. Both sides emphasized the importance of strengthening trade infrastructure and streamlining customs procedures to promote seamless trade between the two countries.

Bhutan expressed gratitude to the Government of India for its continued support in capacity building, training, and skill development for the Bhutan customs administration. The Indian Government’s initiatives, including workshops, seminars, and training programs such as the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) program, were acknowledged for their significant contribution to enhancing customs efficiency and professionalism in Bhutan.

The India-Bhutan Joint Group of Customs meetings, held annually, serve as a platform to redefine and re-engineer customs procedures, promote Customs cooperation, and facilitate cross-border trade alignment with global best practices. These meetings play a crucial role in enhancing connectivity and developing trade infrastructure for smooth customs clearance at land borders.

India remains Bhutan’s top trade partner, accounting for a significant portion of Bhutan’s overall trade. Trade between the two countries has steadily grown, reflecting the close economic ties and mutual cooperation. Enhanced connectivity with Bhutan aligns with India’s ‘Neighborhood First’ and ‘Act East’ Policy, underscoring India’s commitment to fostering strong relations with its neighbors.

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