India keen to reduce sensitive list for Pak, Lanka: Sharma

India pitched for easy movement of cargo and passenger vehicles to boost trade among South Asian countries….

India pitched for easy movement of cargo and passenger vehicles to boost trade among South Asian countries. Commerce minister Anand Sharma said here that India was committed to an early conclusion of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Agreement on Trade and Services. He said India should be given trade preference by the South Asian countries.

Sharma said that the country is keen to substantially reduce the ?sensitive list? for non-Least Developed Countries ?Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

This would enable the Saarc region to truly emerge as a regional free trade area. Sharma was addressing the Saarc ministers at the 7th ministerial council meeting of South Asian Free Trade Agreement (Safta ).

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Sharma urged other countries to align their policies to boost intra-region trade. ?Many countries in this region import substantially from India and we do not get any trade preference?enhancement of trade in Safta region may only remain an elusive dream unless these steps are taken,? he said.

Sharma said the proposed Saarc Agreement on Trade and Services can act as a catalyst of cross border investment in several sectors including energy, telecom, tourism, IT enabled services, as well as education and health.

Since services was a sensitive issue to India, Sharma also asserted that a trans-national power grid across South Asia through countries like India, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan need to be harnessed.

?We need to work together to harness this potential not only for following the path of sustainable development, but also as a source of cost-effective power supply to retain our competitiveness in manufacturing,? he said adding that this will need investment flows of nearly $300 billion.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said that India?s

separate sensitive lists for least developed countries (LDCs) and non-LDCs, saying the measure was ?Pakistan-specific?.

?The establishment of the South Asian Free Trade Area depends critically on the ongoing negotiations. There are several vital issues that are to be successfully negotiated within the specified timeframe,? Gilani said.

?We know that India has two separate sensitive lists, one for NLDCs and other for LDCs. Since India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are NLDCs in the region, this makes the Indian sensitive list Pakistan-specific,? he added.

As part of the Trade Liberalisation Programme under Sata, the non-LDCs or Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan will have to reduce their tariffs to 0.5% by 2013, while the LDCs will reduce tariffs to 0.5% by 2016,

he said.

The meeting also discussed obstacles to trade due to the presence of non-tariff measures and para-tariff measures and decided that the list of these measures should be re-examined.

The ministers agreed that a special meeting of the Committee of Experts will discuss the measures before forwarding the issue to the relevant organisation to be resolved. The ministers also agreed to further relax the Saarc visa regime.

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First published on: 18-02-2012 at 00:16 IST