South Asia Agreement on Trade: 7 countries to ehance trade in services

Daily Times, Pakistan

South Asia Agreement on Trade: 7 countries to ehance trade in services

By Sajid Chaudhry

17 March 2010

ISLAMABAD: South Asia Agreement on Trade in Services among seven South Asian countries including Pakistan and India is expected to end by the end of 2010, official sources informed Daily Times on Monday.

Technically, the South Asia Agreement on Trade in Services would cover all four aspects i.e. cross border supply of services like telecommunication services, consumption of services medical facilities abroad, commercial presence in the form of opening bank branches and the most important movement of natural persons to be the part of the agreement, the official sources added. The draft of the South Asia Agreement on Trade in Services is under active consideration by experts from all seven-member countries of the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA) Agreement.

The officials further informed that a schedule of commitment would be agreed on regarding the sector that would be opened by the member countries for enhanced trade in services and actual market access would be agreed on after signing the Agreement. This development has been achieved at the last meeting of the Committee of Experts (COE) of the SAFTA member countries held at Katmandu, where senior officials from the Ministry of Commerce represented Pakistan.

According to the official sources, the other milestone that has been achieved in the meeting is the agreement on principle regarding reduction of the existing trade sensitive lists by 20 percent by the member countries to expand the existing volume of trade between the South Asian block. A time frame has been agreed on between the member countries at the meeting of Committee of Expert (COE) held to complete the process for reduction in the sensitive lists by September 2010.

There is no disagreement regarding reduction in sensitive list between the member countries i.e. Non-Least Developed Countries (Non-LDCs) namely Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) namely Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives, the official maintained.

Reduction in the sensitive lists by 20 percent by each member country would mean allowing trade of 20 percent more items within the region, the member countries would be allowing duty concessions on 20 percent additional items in case the member countries agreed at SAFTA Council of Ministers and next SAARC Summit, the official sources explained. The consultation with the local trade and industry would be completed after having consultation with stakeholders at the first stage through consultation for selection of the products that the local trade and industry require from the member countries, and the products of Pakistan’s exports for gaining market access in member countries.

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