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India set to get access to Bimstec markets

Business Standard, India

India set to get access to Bimstec markets

Our Regional Bureau / Ahmedabad 23 June 2005

India and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) member countries plan to sign a deal to provide access to each others’ markets for the pharmaceuticals and services sectors.

The decision is likely to be taken at the meeting of Bimstec trade negotiating committee, which is scheduled to be held in the first week of July. The meeting was originally scheduled to be held in the first week of June, but has been postponed.

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand are the Bimstec countries.

"We are planning to open our market for the pharma and services industrIes, as we have a strong comparative advantage in these sectors over the other Bimstec countries. Initially we will open up a few sectors in which we have a comparative advantage," R S Ratna, director, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, said.

Services like banking, insurance, and information technology are likely to be among the first sectors to be opened up.

A foreign trade agreement with Bimstec countries will allow the Indian industry to capture a larger share of these markets.

In the pharma sector, India has comparative advantage in many pharmaceutical items, specially in medicaments containing penicillin and its derivatives. Similarly, India’s ayurvedic medicines have a big market in Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Nepal.

"The government will ensure that such items are not kept in the sensitive list of Bimstec countries, so that Indian manufacturers of these medicines can export to these markets at lower or zero duty," said Ratna.

India is also planning to export insulin to these countries on a large scale. Being a very high-technology product, it will be difficult for other Bimstec countries to produce insulin for the next five to 10 years.

Indian industries have requested the commerce ministry to keep insulin out of the sensitive list of other Bimstec countries.

"There are some domestic manufacturers of insulin that can export to these markets at competitive price as compared to other countries if duties are brought down in Bimstec countries," said Ratna.

The framework agreement on Bimstec Free Trade Area (FTA), which provides for having products in the negative list, and as per the framework agreement, the negotiations for tariff reduction, elemination for FTA in goods, which started in July 2004, will be concluded by December 2005.