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BD Makes Big Cut in SAFTA
BD Makes Big Cut in SAFTA

Dhaka (SANA)Bangladesh will allow duty-free import of more than 200 products from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka as part of a major move by the South Asian nations to boost intra-regional trade, officials said Tuesday.

It will also impose no duties on 246 products from four other nations — Afghanistan, Bhutan, the Maldives and Nepal — that are also the signatories to the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA).

Dhaka announced the decision at a meeting of the Working Group on Reduction of the Sensitive List under the SAFTA in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu last week in exchange for similar steps by other South Asian nations.

A commerce ministry official told the FE that the latest cuts aimed at injecting fresh life into the flagging intra-regional trade in South Asia. “It represents some 20 per cent of the products in the sensitive list.”

The move now awaits a Cabinet Committee approval, he said, adding: “We’ll remove the products from our sensitive list as soon as the Cabinet approves it.”

“Bangladesh will reduce the sensitive list by 246 items for the least developed countries (LDCs) and 248 for the non-LDCs,” he said, adding the reduction will not have much impact on the country’s revenue income.

The eight South Asian nations signed the SAFTA in July 2006 to help boost trade, generate jobs and integrate the region’s all eight economies, which are home to one-fifth of the global population.

But the members were allowed to compile their respective sensitive list, also known as negative list, of products, which were barred from the free trade deal in a bid to safeguard jobs and home-grown industrial sectors.

Experts have blamed the bulging sensitive list for poor growth of trade and economic integration in the region. Last year intra-regional trade among the SAFTA nations made up only about five per cent of their foreign trade.

Statistics show that the intra-SAARC trade under the SAFTA arrangement has reached US$1.1 billion mark last February, since launching of the trade liberalisation programme five years back.

Bangladesh has 1,233 products on the sensitive list for the LDCs and 1,241 for the non-LDCs under the SAFTA. The list effectively shut the door on most of the best known products, manufactured by SAFTA members.

India has 480 items on the sensitive list for the LDCs and 868 for the non-LDCs, Bhutan has 150 items for both the LDCs and non-LDCs, Nepal has 1,257 for the LDCs and 1,295 for the non-LDCs, the Maldives has 681 for all seven SAFTA nations and Pakistan has 1,169, Sri Lanka has 1,042 and Afghanistan has 1,072 items on the negative list.

Officials said India will shorten the sensitive list by 46 items for all South Asian, as was announced by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in Dhaka early September.

Bhutan does not require shortening the negative list as its catalogue only includes 150 products. Thimphu would consider requests, if any, from other SAFTA member-states.

SAFTA nations vowed to cut the Sensitive List by November this year during the second meeting of the working group in March. They also committed to implementing the decision from next January.

However, Nepal has requested to extend the date until August 1 next year.

Bangladesh has exported goods worth $399.60 million between 2007 and 2010 under the SAFTA, while India’s export during the period reached $604.95 million and that of Sri Lanka, $1.18 million.

Bangladesh’s export to Pakistan under the SAFTA arrangement between 2006 and 2010 reached $94.79 million and to the Maldives, $0.014 million during the period.

Negative list of SAFTA comprises 53 per cent of the total trade among the SAFTA member-states.

A MoC official said unless the rich members of SAFTA agree to make a big inroad in the negative list, the free trade deal would not produce the desired results.

Statistics show that Bangladesh had no exports to Afghanistan, Bhutan and the Maldives during July, 2006-December, 2010 period under the SAFTA arrangement.

It exported goods worth $342.87 million to India, $56.39 million to Pakistan and $0.26 million to Sri Lanka during the period.

Posted on Monday, October 03, 2011 @ 04:11:03 JST by admin

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