SAFTA meeting to revise list of sensitive items, tariffs

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A three-day meeting of the two committees under the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) began in Kathmandu on Tuesday to review sensitive lists and tariffs under the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA). “The meeting will basically attempt to reduce the list of sensitive items of international trade banned by SAARC member countries. Tariffs on goods are also expected to be deducted to a reasonable level,” Ratnakar Adhikari, a South Asian trade expert said. As per the provision of SAFTA, by 2016, all eight SAARC member countries have to bring down the number of goods mentioned in the sensitive list to 5 percent of their total goods imported from other South Asian countries. “The meetings have been arranged to achieve this target in time,” said Adhikari. As of Tuesday, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India have two separate lists of sensitive items meant for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the non-LDCs of South Asia. The remaining four countries, the Maldives, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, have maintained separate single lists for all eight SAARC members. In Nepal’s list, there are 1,036 sensitive items for the non- LDCs and 998 items for the LDCs. The number is 906 and 845 for Sri Lanka, 993 and 987 for Bangladesh and 614 and 25 for India, respectively. In Maldives’ list, there are 154 sensitive items, while the number is 156 for Bhutan, 858 for Afghanistan and 936 for Pakistan.