KATHMANDA, Jan 26: Bhutan, the Maldives, Pakistan and India have proposed that all SAARC member countries bring down the goods under Sensitive List to 100 each and customs tariffs for regional products to a maximum of 5 percent by 2022.
SAARC countries have put a total of 6,768 and 5,148 goods for Non-Least Developing Countries (NLDCs) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs), respectively, inside the SAARC region under the sensitive lists.
The sensitive lists include products on which huge customs tariffs are imposed by individual member countries so as to protect their domestic industries supplying similar products.
Though South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement envisages facilitating intra-regional trade by reducing tariffs and non-tariffs barriers, member nations are still maintaining long lists of sensitive products with high customs duty.
SAARC member countries have been showing reluctance to reduce the sensitive lists to protect domestic industries and put their customs revenue intact.
The source said those four countries have also proposed to bring down the existing import duties to 0-5 percent by 2022 to ensure greater mobility of goods produced by member countries.
“We are soon holding discussion with line ministries and other stakeholders, including the private sector, regarding the proposal of the four countries,” a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS) told Republica on Sunday.
SAARC member countries had decided to reduce the number of goods in their sensitive lists by 20 percent in the second phase a couple of years ago. Of the eight member countries, Bhutan, India, the Maldives and Nepal have already provided the names of goods removed from the sensitive lists to the SAARC Secretariat. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are yet to provide the lists.
Nepal, which has longest list of goods among SAARC countries, has put 998 and 1,036 goods originating from sensitive lists of LDCs and NLDCs respectively. Before the reduction, Nepal had 1,257 goods for LDCs and 1,295 goods for NLDCs under its sensitive lists. The Maldives has the shortest list with 154 goods included in sensitive list. Similarly, Afghanistan and Bhutan have 850 and 156 goods respectively while Pakistan has 936 goods under its sensitive lists for both LDCs and NLDCs.
Bangladesh has 987 and 993 goods for LDCs and NLDCs, whereas India has 25 goods for LDCs and 614 for NLDCs under the sensitive lists. Similarly, Sri Lank has 845 and 906 goods for LDCs and NLDCs respectively.
Three SAFTA meeting postponed
Three crucial meetings of SAFTA scheduled to be held in Kathmandu in the second week of February have been postponed as per the request of Pakistan.
The Special SAARC Meeting of Customs and Commerce Authorities on Verification Mechanism relating to Rules of Origin set to be held on February 10, the Third Meeting of Working Group on Reduction in the Sensitive Lists to be held on February 11-12 and the Eleventh Meeting of Experts Group on SAARC Agreement on Trade and Service (SATIS) was scheduled to be organized under the SAFTA by SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu have been postponed.
The SAARC Secretariat has sent notifications to concerned ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS), a couple of days ago, stating that the meetings have been postponed due to forthcoming India Show at Lahore on February 14-16.
The seventh meeting of the SAFTA Committee of Experts held in Islamabad on January 14-15 2012 had decided to establish an ad-hoc Working Group on Reduction in the Sensitive Lists under implementation of SAFTA. The first and second meetings of the working group were held in Kathmandu on 18 June 2012 and July 30, 2013.
This article first appeared here