Vol. 5 Num 689 Mon. May 08, 2006  

Removing Non-tariff Barriers
Safta expert body meets May 16 in Kathmandu

Safta committee of experts (SCoE) will meet on May 16 and 17 in Kathmandu to take initiative to remove non-tariff barriers (NTBs) with a view to facilitating unhindered implementation of the free trade regime in the South Asian countries.

Official sources here Sunday said the SCoE is going to meet in line with the decisions of the Safta ministerial council meeting held in Dhaka on April 20.

The council has also formed a sub-group of the committee of experts to take up technical exercises relating to identifying the NTBs and para-tariff barriers (PTBs) for the committee of experts.

The SCoE's Kathmandu meeting will adopt the terms of reference of the work of the sub-group. The respective country chapter of the sub-group will then prepare the list of barriers and problems and sit again to recommend measures to the committee of experts.

This SCoE is scheduled to meet again in October this year in Dhaka to take up the recommendation of the sub-group and start working on how to remove these problems. The sources said the Safta ministerial council has given the committee the responsibility to work in removing the BTBs and PTBs.

It has been asked to work in haste so that quick and effective implementation of the free trade regime in South Asia does not suffer delay. As per the roadmap Saarc non-LDCs will achieve tariff cuts from zero to five percent in three years while its LDCs will take 10 years to attain it.

The roadmap agreed in the ministerial council meeting says all member states will lower their tariff by 10 percent on July 1, this year. In the next phase, all non-LDCs, such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives will bring a further cut of 30 percent in their tariff in December this year.

However, Sri Lanka and Maldives will enjoy some relaxation as tsunami affected countries.

They will also cut tariff by another 30 percent in December 2007 and yet another 25 to 30 percent in December 2008. The three Saarc poorer nations such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan will lower tariff by 10 percent every year over the next 10 years.

Since Dhaka is reducing it on July 1, it will carry out 10 percent cut in July every year, said the sources.