Commerce Ministry Starts COVID-19 Helpdesk for Resolving Import-Export Issues

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) and the Department of Commerce have been monitoring imports and exports and difficulties being faced by traders and stakeholders due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in India. 

Accordingly, the DGFT operationalised a ‘COVID-19 Helpdesk’ to seek suitable resolutions and support issues relating to international trade. The ‘COVID-19 Helpdesk’ will look into the DGFT/Department of Commerce issues, customs clearance complexities and delays, import and export licensing issues, banking matters, import/export documentation issues, etc. 

The ‘COVID-19 Helpdesk’ will also collate and collect trade-related issues concerning the other Ministries, Agencies or Departments of the Central and State Government. It will also coordinate to seek their support and provide possible solutions/resolutions.

The exporters and importers, including the other stakeholders, can submit information on the DGFT website relating to their issues upon which they require support. The DGFT has included the ‘DGFT Helpdesk Service’ option under its ‘Services’ tab on its website from Monday. 

Under the ‘DGFT Helpdesk Service’, the stakeholders can create a new request under the category of ‘COVID-19’ and submit their issues. Subsequently, the DGFT will take up the issues and provide appropriate resolutions. Alternatively, they can also send their issues to the email ID of DGFT, i.e. with the subject line as ‘COVID-19 Helpdesk’ or call the toll free number – 1800-111-550.

The traders/stakeholders can track the status of their resolutions and feedback using the status tracker under the DGFT Helpdesk Service. They will also get an SMS and an email when the status is updated.

The DGFT is an organisation that is attached to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The Director-General of Foreign Trade heads it. It is involved in the promotion and regulation of foreign trade in the country. It is responsible for administering laws, regulation and policies regarding foreign trade in India. It is the nodal agency under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry that facilitates exports and imports.

Earlier in March 2021, the DGFT proposed to expand its services online across India by replacing physical offices with virtual ones to promote paperless processes. The DGFT planned to remove the existing process of waiting in a queue for obtaining benefits and approvals wherever possible by enabling technology-driven procedures and IT infrastructure. It aimed to bring down the approval time and issuance for export benefit, import benefit, export promotion schemes and export licences for restricted items.

The DGFT and the Ministry of Commerce have been taking several steps to help the traders and the stakeholders. It has come up with policies and facilities to ease the compliances of the traders. The introduction of ‘COVID-19 Helpdesk’ will help the traders at a time of the surge in COVID-19 cases across the country. The ‘COVID-19 Helpdesk’ will ensure the continuance of the trade activities smoothly.

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