Intra-regional trade: Minimum duties by 2013

DOWN, Pakistan, September 13, 2012
Pakistan will slash it tariff duties on intra-regional trade to a minimum level by January 2013, Federal Minister for Defence Syed Naveed Qamar said on Tuesday.

Like other South Asian countries, Pakistan will reduce its customs duties between zero and five per cent on all tradable products, except those in the sensitive list, as part of the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) to further liberalise its trading regime with neighbouring countries.

However, the minister said there is no room for complacency as non-tariff barriers remain high and there are procedural restrictions on movement of people and merchandise.

“The non-tariff barriers will have to come down along with the tariffs”, the minister.

The minister was speaking at the inaugural session of the 5th South Asia Economic Summit in Islamabad. More than 114 participants from South Asian countries including Afghanistan are attending the three day session, which started on Tuesday.

The minister suggested that the participating think tanks should offer specific advice to South Asia governments particularly about trade in services, trade in agricultural goods, intra-regional movement of people and trade in important resources such as energy.

“On the trade front, we have taken concrete steps in reducing barriers to trade in South Asia,” he said, adding that trade has to be complimented with reforms related to investment sharing of natural resources such as water and cooperation between regulatory bodies along with promotion of supply chains, for a deeper integration.

Recommendations of the summit would be submitted to SAARC Secretariat ahead of the upcoming annual SAARC Summit due to be held in Nepal this year.

SDPI Executive Director, Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri praised the political leaderships of India and Pakistan for recent landmark initiatives such as new visa regime, MFN status to India by Pakistan and India’s decision to allow investment by Pakistani investors.

“We can now see new clouds of hope amidst years of mistrust,” said Suleri hoping that the new agreements and advancement on issues relating to development would herald an optimistic future in South Asia.

However, it cannot happen without a pro-poor growth that benefits all citizens and which should address economic disparity within and between countries.

Pradeep Mehta of the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) International said that trade liberalisation and regional integration will help the people as increased trade will result into greater advantages for the people.

Member of Parliament, Sri Lanka Rajiva Wijesinha, said many developed countries are pushing for freeing capital movements but are denying freer movement of labour across the world.

He emphasised on developing human resource through quality education and capacity building.

Madhu Raman Acharya, Former Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nepal said, SAARC has to reinvent itself to yield results as the region cannot be run on auto pilot as is being currently done.

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