SAARC nations to work together to remove non-tariff barriers

Financial Express, Bangladesh, April 13, 2013

India has said it is working to resolve all matters related to non-tariff barriers (NTBs) to boost trade among South Asian countries and has said there is a need for greater awareness on such measures.

Lack of awareness about 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, said Indira Murthy, Director, Commerce Ministry.

NTBs are measures other than tariffs that restrict trade like technical standards, quality specifications and lack of adequate infrastructure.

Murthy said India was making all efforts to sort out NTB related issues amongst members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to boost trade. She was addressing a seminar on NTBs affecting regional trade in the SAARC region organised by CUTS.

There is a subgroup that is looking at the issues related with land custom stations. Negotiations are on to remove the NTBs, she said.

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

Stressing on the importance of adequate infrastructure for removal of NTBs, Khairuzzaman Mozumder, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, Bangladesh, said that it was heartening to note that most SAARC countries were ready to work in the area. There has to be cooperation between Governments in the region to improve infrastructure and they have to come up with the resources. While India would get the funds on its own, the ADB is to provide grants and loans to countries like Bhutan, Bangladesh and India. All have to upgrade together for the exercise to be meaningful, he said.

Pakistani Customs and Trade Policy official Robina Ather said it was necessary to identify, evaluate and eliminate NTBs for trade to grow in the region. We need to focus on priority NTBs so that they can be sorted out fast, she said.

According to the proposed Business Plan for improving regional trade drafted by CUTS, South Asian countries should identify products of high importance to regional trade, measured by supply capacity and matching import demand within the region.

CUTS has conducted an assessment and identified products for each South Asian country which meets their export interests and import demand respectively.

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