Implement SAFTA in letter and spirit: India

Posted By: Pti
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Ajay Kaul

Thimphu, Feb 6 (PTI) Advocating deepening of intra-SAARC trade, India today pressed for implementation of SAFTAin its letter and spirit, in an apparent reference to Pakistanwhich has refused to implement the commerce opening pact inthe context of India.

"SAFTA (South Asia Free Trade Agreement) can be animportant instrument to deepen intra-regional trade if it iscomplied with by all member states and implemented in letterand spirit," Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told a meeting ofSAARC Foreign Secretaries.

She did not name any country but was clearly referringto Pakistan which has refused to implement SAFTA in thecontext of India and insists on doing trade with it only onthe basis of ''positive list''.

Pakistan, while signing the SAFTA that came into forceon July 1,2006, had agreed to implement it without reservationbut backed out later.

India has been complaining, even to the SAARCSecretariat, that the issue of restricted import of goods fromIndia by Pakistan under the SAFTA was against the letter andspirit of SAFTA.

At present, the direct annual trade between Pakistanand India is around USD 2 billion which has a potential togrow to USD 10 billion. The indirect trade between the twocountries is manifold.

Rao also pressed for early ratification of the SAARCAgreement on Trade in Services signed at the 16th SAARC Summitin Bhutan last April, saying it will give a boost to realizingthe full potential of trade in services in the region.

"India has already submitted its sector-specificrequest list of services to various members and we hope thatthe ''request-offer process'' can soon gather pace at themeeting of the Expert Group scheduled for the end of March2011," Rao said.

"The Group on Customs Cooperation is also doing goodwork for the harmonization of customs standards within theregion," the Foreign Secretary said.

She also expressed hope that with the appointment ofits first Director-General, the SAARC Arbitration Council willalso contribute to facilitating the trading environment in theregion. .

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