India, SACU to sign preferential trade agreement: Sharma

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Ruchi Kapoor

Johannesburg, Jan 12 (PTI) India and South Africannations are expected to sign a trade agreement by the middleof this year, which aims at reducing tariffs on certain itemstraded between the nations, Commerce and Industry MinisterAnand Sharma has said.

"We both are pushing it (PTA agreement) very hard andwant to complete it at least by the middle of the year," hesaid.

The India-Southern Africa Customs Union PreferentialTrade Agreement will help the countries sign the pact byreducing tariffs for certain products. Tariffs are customsduties on merchandise imports.

The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) consists ofBotswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland.

South Africa''s Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Daviessaid, "We are confident that we will be able to reach a mutualbeneficial agreement in not too distant future."

The PTA is slightly different from the free tradeagreement (FTA).

In FTA, the two sides reduce or eliminate duties onmaximum number of products they trade in, whereas in PTA, thetariffs are not necessarily eliminated, but they are loweredthan the countries not party to the agreement.

The minister said the agreement should provide anenormous boost to ongoing levels of bilateral trade,especially in products such as pharmaceuticals, machinery,automobiles, where India enjoys a competitive advantage.

The exchange of lists is expected to take place soon. "Ithink we have made some progress and specific exchange of listwill take place within the next two weeks," Sharma said.

India''s exports to South Africa comprises mineral fuels,automobiles, iron, steel, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, cottonyarn and fabrics.

The country''s import include gold, aluminum, phosphoricacid, coal, pulp and waste paper, precious stones, includingdiamonds.

India and South Africa has also revised their tradetarget of USD 10 billion (which was earlier scheduled to beachieved by 2012) to USD 15 billion, as the earlier target islikely to be achieved by this fiscal-end.

During April-September 2010-11, the bilateral trade stoodat USD 5.3 billion compared to USD 3.7 billion in the sameperiod last fiscal.

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