New Delhi, Mar 3: Union Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath today said that India has decided to reduce the items mentioned in the negative list with regard to its trade with the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Addressing at the third meeting of South Asian Free Trade Association (SAFTA) Nath said, the items in the negative list would be brought down to 500 from 744. "We would be in a position to notify the revised negative list within the next few months. I also take this opportunity to suggest that other non-LDC's should also consider reviewing their negative lists with respect to LDC's," added Nath.
Nath also urged the SAARC countries to upgrade themselves and adopt technical standards in accordance with global benchmarks.
"As more and more global standards emerge within SAARC, we should cooperate to see that this happens within our own countries. We are trying to see that this transformation is least painful for the producers within the country and those connected with us supply chain outside our country," Nath added.
Its least developed countries -- Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and the Maldives -- have ten years to complete the process, though all members can maintain a list of sensitive products on which tariffs will not be reduced.
Free trade is expected to boost economic activity and growth in the region, home to about 1.5 billion people, over 400 million of whom live on less than a dollar a day.
Although preferential trade treaty has been in place for over two decades, trading within SAARC countries remains around five per cent of the members' total global trade of the region, which is far less than intra-regional trade in Europe and ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations).