BIMSTEC negotiators reach consensus on reducing negative list

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Dhaka, Sep 26 (UNI) The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) trade negotiators have agreed to bring down the negative list of products to 15 per cent of the total tariff lines from existing 25 per cent as the 3-day meeting of the Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) concluded here today.

The negotiators also agreed on 35 per cent value addition requirement of products by developing countries and 30 per cent for the least developed countries of the grouping if they want to enjoy the liberalised tariff under the BIMSTEC.

Under a framework agreement on BIMSTEC FTA signed in 2004, the member countries - Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand - had agreed to bring down the import tariffs for a group of products to zero and other products to 1-5 per cent.

''Few outstanding issues are almost final. One or two issues need to be sorted out,'' TNC chairperson Manel de Silva, director general of Sri Lanka Department of Commerce, told a press conference.

The BIMSTEC TNC meeting began here on Monday in a bid to resolve the differences among the member countries and facilitate establishment of a Free Trade Area (FTA) in the region.

Around 40 delegates from the member countries participated in the meeting.

Bangladesh hosted the 15th TNC meeting of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).

Ms De Silva said the delegations would take up the agreements reached in Dhaka with their respective governments for mandate before finalising the agreements at the next TNC meeting in New Delhi on November 12-16 this year.

''We (TNC) will be ready to sign the agreement at the BIMSTEC Summit in New Delhi scheduled in February 2008,'' said the TNC chairperson, claiming that the long-stalled meeting was very successful.

''The meeting was very constructive. We're optimistic about signing the FTA at 2008 BIMSTEC Summit,'' she said.

Replying to a question, she said the delegates reached the agreements giving a special consideration to LDCs like Bangladesh.

To another question, she said the TNC would take a decision on goods transit by landlocked countries. Nepal proposed for the transit facility, but Myanmar requested time till next meeting to make their comments, said an official.

Bangladesh delegation leader N M Zeaul Alam told that they would share the meeting's outcome with the stakeholders.

Meeting sources said at the initial stage the TNC would consider product specific rules (PSR) for 25 items from each country with an agreement that further discussion on PSR may resume after signing the agreement on Trade in Goods.

The meeting also agreed to reduce the sensitive list without the principle of reciprocity - a product being on the negative list of a particular country would not get duty-free export status in other countries in the grouping.

However, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka would communicate their decisions to the TNC chairperson within 15 days of their decisiona regarding the difficulties they are facing in reducing the sensitive lists.

The TNC urged the member countries to seriously consider the options in their capitals so that the outstanding issues could be resolved at the next meeting.

It was also agreed that each country would prioritise their lists of PSRs and circulate the lists by October 24 this year.

UNI

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