Single Window for Foreign Trade in Colombia: A Case Study on Trade Transactions

Article excerpt

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Since 2005 Colombian companies have been relieved of the time-consuming need to visit the numerous government offices involved in the international trade process by the establishment of the Single Window for Foreign Trade--SWFT. To facilitate trade, this system enables public entities involved in foreign trade to allow companies to conduct paperless business transactions with the support of information and communications technologies. Developed by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, with the support of the Connectivity Agenda Program of the Ministry of Information and Communications Technologies, this solution covers both national and international trade and is available for all companies, regardless of size or sector.

Companies can use SWFT in each phase of trade, from imports to exports, including authorizations, registrations and certifications, and along with consulting fees, monitoring of applications filed and the payment of associated costs. This single window integrates and facilitates electronic communication with up to eighteen entities (1) through which a company handles import and export procedures.

When launched, the main objective of implementing the system was to contribute to the competitiveness of Colombian companies by simplifying and rationalizing the system and procedures, allowing companies to undertake procedures in the area of imports and exports remotely, improving communication between the entities involved in foreign trade processes, and facilitating the relationship between these entities and the wider community.

Business, government and society all benefit from SWFT:

* There is greater efficiency, with trade procedures reduced to just three days compared to as much as one to two months previously. SWFT is available for use 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Substantial cost savings are achieved both for businesses and public entities. Companies outside the capital benefit, saving additional time and costs associated with physically transferring documents.

* There is greater consistency and security in foreign trade operations, since the eighteen entities linked to SWFT are based on a single application, avoiding distortions arising through the use of different forms. By digitizing signatures and streamlining procedures, SWFT significantly improves the quality and security of transactions, ensuring the confidentiality and inviolability of information for users. The procedures are not only performed more safely, but can better control the response of the entities associated with foreign trade processes.

* It offers better service, with a virtual training system, and enables users to track progress, solve technical problems and ask for explanations about unmet needs, additional requirements or denial of the request through a contact centre or by e-mail. …