The Prime Minister’s Office will soon convene a meeting to work out a package for greater opening of India’s markets for the least developed countries of South Asia, which is likely to be announced at SAARC Summit here in April.
The package that is aimed at advancing India’s commitment to reduce duties under SAFTA will benefit Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal and Bhutan, sources said.
Since the European Union and the US would be present as observers at the meeting, the gesture would send a positive message about India’s commitment to reach out to LDCs in its neighbourhood. India is also preparing a similar package for a wider group of LDCs under the WTO.
According to sources, it would also bring pressure on Pakistan which has not opened up its market for India violating SAFTA, which came into effect last year.
Under the SAFTA, the three non-LDC members - India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan - are required to bring their duties to less than five per cent in three years.
“India could advance this date unilaterally,” sources said. It may also reduce its negative and sensitive lists of items.While this package would bring goodwill to the country, it would not effect economic interests as India’s seven billion dollar trade with SAARC is a small percentage of its overall global merchandise trade of more than 300 billion dollars.
At the SAARC Summit, Pakistan’s refusal to open up its markets for India under the trade agreement is likely to figure. Unlike other members, Pakistan allows concessional imports from India of only 1,075 items and everything else is closed for exporters here.