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Pak agrees to implement Safta in ’letter & spirit’

Economic Times, India

Pak agrees to implement Safta in ’letter & spirit’

5 April 2007

PTI - NEW DELHI: The Safta on Wednesday received a big boost with Pakistan agreeing to the views of Saarc leaders that the pact liberalising regional trade be implemented in “letter and spirit”.

The Saarc Declaration at the conclusion of the two-day summit here said the Heads of State or Government “emphasised that Safta should be implemented in letter and spirit”. It also called for finalisation of an agreement in services at
the earliest.

The Declaration, unanimously adopted by all the leaders including Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, said “effective market access through smooth implementation of trade liberalisation programme” be ensured.

When asked whether Pakistan has agreed to implement Safta, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee said, “All have agreed to operationalise the regional trade arrangement.”

He said the declaration was clear about it. Mr Mukherjee said India’s unilateral liberalisation package for LDCs would not impact on its economy, which is large enough to accommodate interests of its neighbours.

The implementing organs of the South Asia Free Trade Area (Safta) Agreement should review the progress of opening the markets among each other.

While the Safta was operationalised in July, 2006, Pakistan has not implemented the pact retaining the ‘positive’ list of items (restricting imports) from India citing that New Delhi has not lifted non-tariff barriers (NTBs).

However, Pakistan could not give any specific instance of NTB. In the backdrop of growing importance of the services sector in the overall GDP of the regional economies, the Declaration said SAFTA should integrate trade in services.