SAARC Commerce Secretaries to mull ways to remove trade curbs

SAARC Commerce Secretaries to mull ways to remove trade curbs

New Delhi, 5 October Commerce Secretaries of SAARC countries will meet in December this year and discuss ways to remove barriers, including restrictions on movement of goods by roads, that are proving as a hurdle for promotion of trade under the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA) Agreement.

The business delegations from the SAARC countries which met under the aegis of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce here today will submit their recommendations for consideration of the Commerce Secretaries.

One of the working groups that looks into the issue of India-Pakistan trade has suggested that unrestrictive travel be allowed to ‘SAARC sticker-holders´, and movement of goods be encouraged through land routes at Wagah, Khokhrapar and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

It also recommended access to Pakistani businessmen through Amritsar and other cities of Punjab in India.

The issues relating to immigration and visa restrictions will come up at the meeting of SAARC Home Ministers in the next few weeks while Finance Ministers of the region held deliberations on the SAARC Development Fund in September, a senior official of the Ministry of External Affairs said.

Addressing the SAARC Chamber meeting, Joint Secretary in the Commerce Ministry Rajeev Kher said that India would continue its protest if Pakistan keeps restriction on the list of items that can be traded between the two countries.

Despite SAFTA coming into force from July 2006, Pakistan allows limited trade with India through a ‘positive list´ of items. India allows its neighbours to trade with it all but a small negative list.

Kher said there was misplaced apprehension that if the services sector was opened for trade among the SAARC countries, Indians would swarm the market. “This is a mindset of a trust deficit,", he said.