Sri Lanka forum promotes joint South Asian stand at trade talks

Lanka Business Online, June 19, 2010
South Asian countries like Sri Lanka have a common interest in forging a common regional stand in world trade talks, trade experts and economists told a meeting in Colombo.

A common approach by South Asia at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks would be better than individual counties adopting their own individual approaches, they said.

South Asian countries need access for their products in markets in developed countries as well as export of services and labour.

The regional consultation seminar on South Asian positions in the WTO Doha round was jointly organized by Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka and Consumer Unity & Trust Society.

Exporters from countries in the South Asian region face common problems in penetrating markets in developed countries such as non-tariff barriers (NTBs) like testing requirements and costly certification.

“NTBs are a common area where all South Asian countries can fight together because NTBs affect every body,” said Amiti Sen, Assistant Trade Editor of the Economic Times of India.

“South Asian countries should be more alert, they should get together and identify what areas where NTBs are encountered and go ahead and ask for their removal.”

Almost all countries in the region rely on earnings from exports of textiles and clothing as well as migrant labour.

Agneshwar Sen, joint director general of foreign trade in Kolkata, India said NTBs were a very critical aspect of talks at the WTO on freeing up world trade in non-agricultural products by reducing tariffs.

“As tariffs go down NTBs come up. NTBs are normal administrative measures which are legitimately allowed by governments but which are illegitimately used as protection measures.”

These take the form of fees or formalities.

“If formalities are made to delay imports it becomes a trade barrier,” Sen said.

He said South Asian countries should get together to identify and take up the issue of NTBs as trade barriers need to be removed quickly.

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