Vol. 5 Num 382 Fri. June 24, 2005  

Dhaka may drop more items from sensitive list for Safta

Bangladesh is likely to drop 324 more products from the sensitive list for India for the proposed South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta) besides 37 for Sri Lanka, 119 for Nepal and 63 for Bhutan.

An inter-ministerial meeting held yesterday in Dhaka worked out the strategy. Commerce ministry Additional Secretary Sirajul Islam presided over the meeting.

"As per the strategy of any free trade negotiation, countries request one another to withdraw items from the sensitive list on the basis of respective export interest. If we do not drop products, our counterparts may not relax their positions to downsize their sensitive lists," a commerce minister official said after the meeting.

Earlier, Bangladesh exchanged its sensitive list containing 1,306 items with India's list of 927 products, Pakistan's 1,157, Sri Lanka's 1,065, Nepal's 1,315, Bhutan's 132 and the Maldives' 582.

However, in the seventh meeting of the Committee of Experts (CoE) held March 22-24 in Male, Bangladesh sought exclusion of 36 items from the list of Bhutan, 381 from the list of India, 134 from the Maldives, 394 from Nepal, 286 from Pakistan and 144 from Sri Lanka.

The products Bangladesh wants to get deleted from the lists include readymade garments, leather, food, engineering products, made-up textile and textile products, steel products, electrical and electronics items, jute products, handicrafts, cosmetic and toiletries, ceramic, plastic items and furniture, sources said.

The inter-ministerial meeting also decided to increase the total number of products for the Safta sensitive list to 1,322 from previous 1,306 items, sources said adding that these items are mostly alcoholic products.

The meeting also decided to launch discussion for defining parameter for calculating the revenue loss, forms of compensation, modalities of implementation, alternative domestic arrangements and data collection in the next CoE meeting.

The meeting also decided Bangladesh will seek assistance to identify exports niches of the country in the Saarc region, review market structure, demand and access barriers of niche products in South Asia.

Bangladesh will request non-LDCs to provide it with information on import-related formalities.

The agreement on the South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta), signed in January 2004, is due to come into force in January 2006.