Lack of information about non-tariff barriers creating problems in SAARC trade: Government

Press Trust of India, April,11, 2013

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Lack of awareness about non-tariff barriers among traders of the South Asian region is creating problems in enhancing intra-SAARC trade and commerce, a government official has said.

“Lack of awareness about Non-tariff barriers (NTBs) is creating lot of problems. Stakeholders like business associations should organise seminars to make traders aware of the procedures followed by each countries. The move would help in increasing trade,” Director in the Commerce Ministry Indira Murthy today said at a seminar here.

She was addressing representatives from South Asian countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The seminar on `Participatory Approach to Address NTBs in Regional Trade` was organised by CUTS.

Murthy said the government is working to resolve all matters related with non-trade barriers to boost trade among South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

“There is a sub-group who are looking at the issues related with land custom stations. Negotiations are on to remove them (NTBs),” she said.

She added that the governments are engaged to remove barriers related with infrastructure and facilitates at customs stations like testing laboratories.

The Director informed that India is not only spending money on developing infrastructure but also organising outreach programmes in the neighbouring countries informing traders about paper work and different procedures.

She said that SAARC members should focus on issues such as energy cooperation, Essential Services Maintenance Act ( ESMA) and work closely to increase trade instead of competing with each other.

“Regional integration is the need of the hour. Why can`t we have such agreement (ESMA) within the SAARC region,” she said.

On the issue of standards, Murthy allayed fears of business community and said unlike western world India does not follow stringent standard norms. “There are certain mandatory standards to ensure health and life of consumers. Traders should be aware of those standards as it would help in harmonisation of products.”

Speaking at the function, SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry President Vikramjit Sahney said huge trade potential exists in South Asia and efforts are on to remove all the NTBs to boost trade and commerce.

SAARC members include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Trade between the member countries (excluding Afghanistan) stood at $14.35 billion in 2010–11, an increase of 43.4 per cent vis–a–vis the same period in the previous fiscal. Afghanistan joined the group in May 2012.

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