India will meet its commitment of reducing tariff lines under sensitive list by 20 per cent for all by next month, a critical requirement of the SAFTA agreement signed by SAARC member countries.
Speaking at the first meeting of the South Asia Forum in New Delhi today, union minister for commerce, industry and textiles, Anand Sharma, said, ''Time has come to take a call on reduction of barriers to trade. SAFTA is moving forward on the path of economic integration and India should give full support so that the region realises it full potential.''
He said that India has been bringing down the peak tariffs under SAFTA in a very transparent manner for imports from Pakistan and the peak rates would be 8 per cent.
According to the minutes of the meeting of India-Pakistan joint working group on economic commercial cooperation and trade promotion held on 23-24 August in New Delhi the peak tariff rates would be 8 per cent by 1 January 2012 and 5 per cent by 1 January 2013.
As per the minutes the Pakistani side assured that they will also work internally towards meeting its SAFTA obligation to India. India has already allowed zero duty access for the SAARC Least Developed Countries, for almost 97 per cent of the total tariff lines. He said that ''India is keen to engage more with Pakistan and develop deeper economic linkages. That will give more depth and width to our relationship.''
India's trade with SAARC stands at mere $13 billion at a time when our global trade has expanded to cross $600 billion. Indian companies have stepped out and engaged in foreign shores investing over $100 billion and more than 90 per cent of this investment has been outside South Asia.
Indian investment flows into SAARC have been around $10 billion. ''This clearly brings out the imperative of creating a more conducive investment climate a more harmonious linkage between our industry bodies and a strong political commitment for an integrated South Asia'' Sharma added.
FICCI in partnership with the ministry of external affairs (MEA) is hosting the first meeting of South Asia Forum, the objective and scope of which will serve as an open platform for generation of debate, discussion and exchange of ideas on South Asia and its future development.