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India wants smooth implementation of SAFTA

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Apr 18: For the smooth implementation of South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) from July 1, India at the first two-day Ministerial Council meeting in Bangladesh from April 20 will stress on setting up of modalities for action, negative list of sensitive items by each country, tariff liberalisation and removal of restriction on movement of goods within the member countries.

India will voice its concerns at the meeting over specific issues and try to remove the obstacles in the way of successful implementation of the SAFTA from July 1.

All the Commerce Ministers from seven countries -- India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives -- will participate in the meeting.

Although SAFTA came into force from January 1, 2006 and now the procedure for reducing the tariffs on certain items of import has to be done in a planned way.

Talking to mediapersons here today, Commerce and Industry Minister Jairam Ramesh, who will be leading the Indian delegation at Dhaka, said that he would stress on reduction of import duties, tariff liberalisation, member countries should release negative list of items so that these could be kept out of tariff barriers and removal of restriction on movement of goods within SAFTA nations.

Mr Ramesh made it clear that because of restrictions certain commodities enter the member countries through other destinations.

Citing the example of tea, he said that Indian tea reaches Pakistan via Dubai which could be easily shipped through Wagah border.

Mr Ramesh said India has three items on top of its agenda which include tariff liberalisation, members should be ready with negative list of sensitive items and Pakistan with positive list and removal of movement restriction on goods.

''If these three conditions are not accepted, SAFTA has no creaning,'' he added.

The Minister said he will have bilateral meetings with each of the six countries to discuss specific issues including import of vanaspati and black pepper from Sri Lanka and import of cardamom from Nepal which is flooding Indian markets.

In the meeting with Pakistan Commerce Minister, he will discuss tea exports as India is the largest producer of tea and Pakistan is the second largest tea importer to the tune of 140 million kgs, but through Dubai.

He said United Planters Association of South India (UPASI) and Tea Board representatives were already in Pakistan for supply of tea from India.

Mr Ramesh said India can emerge as prime supplier of tea to Pakistan via Wagah border as Kenyan tea production has damaged.

A Meeting with Bangladesh Commerce Minister will help in investment opportunities in that country and Tata's have already envisaged plans to invest 2.5 billion dollars in various sectors.

''There is huge trade surplus which is heavily in India's favour,'' he added.

He informed that the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of commerce and Industry (FBCCI) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) for setting up six task forces pertaining to working together for facilitating cooperation between Bangladesh and Indian Enterprises and aiming to enhance bilateral trade opportunities.

The next meeting will be held in India later this year.


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