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SAFTA COE prepares for decision on modes of free trade

By Staff
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Dhaka, Apr 17 (UNI) The South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) Committee of Experts (COE) will meet here tomorrow to carry out discussions following which the Ministerial Council of Commerce Ministers will take decision on operational modalities of regional free trade.

''The meetings will try to remove the trade asymmetry among the member-states,'' Bangladesh Commerce Minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury said today after a meeting on preparation for holding the SAFTA meetings.

He told newspersons that the delegates would hold talks on non-tariff and para-tariff barriers to trade as well as trimming the respective sensitive lists.

Bangladesh would also look for means of increasing its trade with India so that it could reduce the huge trade gap with the neighbouring country.

The two-day COE meeting would do the spadework for consideration by the Ministerial Council that meets on Thursday with Commerce Minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury in the chair.

''The COE meeting would review the issues already under the SAFTA and beyond,'' a senior Commerce Ministry official said.

He said non-tariff and para-tariff barriers as well as other trade-related issues would come up for discussion, aimed at properly giving effect to the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement.

Trade Ministers from the economic grouping is scheduled to attend the Council meeting. From India, Minister of State Jairam Ramesh would take part in the maiden ministerial council.

Officials said the COE and the Council would review the status of sensitive lists, technical assistance and revenue-loss compensation to the least developed members by the developing members as agreed in the SAFTA deal.

The meetings would also consider a proposal for holding SAFTA Ministerial Council preceeded by COE meetings annually in each of the member-states to monitor and review the achievements under the free-trade regime, they said.

On the sidelines, the Commerce Minister of Bangladesh is scheduled to hold bilateral trade discussions with his counterparts and trade delegations from India, Pakistan and the Maldives.

The newly formed SAFTA Ministerial Council of Commerce Ministers meets here to take measures for making operational the South Asian Free Trade Area given legal effect in January this year.

UNI XC ARB KN2133

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