What is the Single Foreign Trade Portal and what is its importance?

  • 20/08/2019
  • 13 minutes

Facilitating global trade is an interest which has been fed worldwide for many years. The term “globalization” started gaining notoriety in the 1990s, when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) identified, as basic pillars of the concept, financial commerce and transactions, capital and investment flows, migration, and human flow (generating knowledge exchange and dissemination).

In that decade, Brazil could already glimpse its participation in the modernization of international commerce. “Keeping up with the worldwide evolution of the need to accelerate communication, Brazil already had, since 1993, a portal integrating some government agencies to facilitate the export documents that became electronic”, recalls Mônica Romero, Technical Advisor at AEB and Professor at FGV.

At that time, the initiative was even applauded by the UN as something modern and as a facilitator for international trade.

A few decades later, Brazil once again started concentrating its efforts in the idea of debureaucratizing and integrating agencies, thus creating the Single Foreign Trade Portal.

What is the Single Foreign Trade Portal

The Single Foreign Trade Portal program is, today, the public administration’s main initiative to modernize and simplify Brazilian foreign trade. It materializes the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) by implementing most of the agreement’s provisions in Brazil.

However, the initiative goes beyond what was established by the TFA, with the purpose of benefiting the Brazilian society and facilitating the business environment. A result of the redesign of customs export, import, and cargo and transit control processes, the Single Portal plays the role of facilitating and modernizing actions focused on foreign trade.

It congregates all customs procedures in a single place so that all foreign trade players (for example, the importer, exporter, forwarding agent, depositaries, transporters, logistics operators in general, experts, and public agencies) might interact in an efficient way. It also concentrates payments and presents all customs legislation related to the operations, providing predictability of the requirements to which stakeholders may be subjected.

Thus, the Single Portal follows the single window concept, a space in which all public players (22 public agencies intervene in foreign trade, depending on the type of commodity or operation) and private players interact exclusively through it.

The name “single window” alludes to the little window through which documents were passed, back in the day. Nowadays, digitally created, the space enables agility, advancement, and exchange of information in a much less bureaucratic and more organized way.

In this alignment, the information and the documents are presented only once to the State, being used throughout the process by those who need them. This enables a single view of the operations, providing greater transparency and ensuring agility and efficiency.

“This feeling of transparency is much healthier”, comments Mônica Romero. “In order for that to happen, there was an important work of integration between the agencies and a redesign of the processes”, she tells.

All fees levied on operations, be it taxes or contributions, will also start being collected through the Single Portal.

“In the future, the goal is that port fees and even expert reports be paid through the Portal, which will also facilitate business accounting and will serve as input for the formulation of foreign trade public policies”, says Alexandre da Rocha Zambrano, Fiscal-Auditor of the Federal Revenue of Brazil and Manager of the Single Foreign Trade Portal Program.

Savings for exporters with the Single Portal

The main goal of the program is to reduce by 40% the time required to process exports and imports.

With that goal, established in 2014, the Single Portal aims to equate Brazil to the average of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.

“In the current stage of development of the Program, the new export process is almost entirely implemented, having concluded migrating 100% of Brazilian export operations in the second semester of 2018”, evaluates Zambrano.

Although some features are still in development (such as the consortium export and some improvements in cargo control), the new process already exceeded the project’s goal and has been reducing time in the waterway modal (the main Brazilian modal) from 13 to 7 days, besides reducing to 4.9 days the average time for all modals.

“This reduction represents a potential of around R$ 40 billion savings for exporters”, calculates Zambrano. Besides, without investing in logistics or port infrastructure, only by attacking the inefficiencies of the old process, it was possible to practically double the processing capacity of port operations”, he adds.

The results of the new process are even more striking when evaluating the great simplification it promoted. By replacing various documents required in the old process (such as the Export Declaration, the Simplified Export Declaration, and the Export Records) with the Single Export Declaration (DU-E), it was possible to reduce by 85% the amount of documents required for export processing.

Data from the Federal Revenue show that 875 thousand documents were needed in December 2017, against only 135 thousand in December 2018.

By integrating the Portal to the NF-e (the electronic invoice system), the average amount of information provided by exporters has also been reduced by about 60% (going from 98 to only 38 fields to be filled in). This integration also automated some controls, eliminating many bureaucratic steps in the old process.

“One of the steps that was excluded was the need to prove exports through the export memorandum (in which the exporter had to prove to state finances that they had actually exported the goods to guarantee the resulting tax benefits)”, reports Alexandre Zambrano.

All of this decisively contributes to increasing the competitiveness of companies and to opening new markets for the benefit of society as a whole.

A differential of the program has been the broad participation of private players in the construction of new processes, who were involved from the mapping of the old process and its critical points to the search for solutions and the definition of the new process. This was fundamental for achieving the results obtained.

Projections for the future of the Single Portal

According to Zambrano, throughout 2019, the Single Import Declaration (DUIMP) will develop its features so that in 2020 import operations can start being gradually migrated to the Single Portal, just as it was done with exports.

Among the main changes promoted by the new process, we can cite the early registration of declarations (even before the arrival of the cargo), which will enable most of the goods to arrive in Brazil already released by the State to be taken to the importer’s establishment without needing to be stored at the Port, significantly reducing logistics costs and increasing the predictability of goods availability to the importer.

In addition, the sequentialism model between administrative and customs controls is changed, moving to a parallelism in which public agencies act independently and concurrently, speeding up the process and ensuring that any physical inspections are made in a single conference window, eliminating redundancies of cargo movements in the port area and reducing logistics time and costs.

Another important advancement of the new process will be the comprehensive licensing of more than one operation, which will simplify public and private controls. In the current process, the importer is required to obtain a specific license for each operation, even if they perform the same operation weekly.

With the new process, it will be possible to get some licenses by quantity or time frame, regardless of the number of operations involved. For example, if a company repeats the same operation subject to weekly licensing, it may obtain a single license valid for 5 years, replacing about 250 licenses with only one during this period. All of this will reduce costs, increase business competitiveness and significantly improve the business environment.

“It’s ever more necessary for the country to develop harmonized and efficient import and export processes,” says Mariana Nogueira, Foreign Trade analyst at FIRJAN. For her, the system still needs fine-tuning, “but I emphasize that companies have already felt the time improvement in their processes,” she affirms.

For the year 2019, we can mention some important developments, such as the register of experts, which will bring greater transparency for operators, and especially the new air cargo control. This will replace the current Mantra system, which has been in operation for over 20 years and which brings many obstacles to the development of air modal operations.

The expectation is that the air cargo processing time will be reduced by 80% when the new system comes into operation, gradually starting in 2020, it will increase Brazilian competitiveness, which could attract significantly more foreign investment.

Do you want to know more about exports and imports in different modals? Then read our article about multimodal transport.