India, the largest member of the South Asian Association
for Regional Co-operation (SAARC), should give duty-free
market access to its smaller and less-developed neighbours
like Bangladesh, Maldives, Bhutan and Nepal, while Pakistan
needs to implement the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA)
agreement, industry body Assocham said, ahead of the
upcoming SAARC summit in New Delhi on April 3-4.
summit meeting would ratify the South Asia Free Trade
Agreement (SAFTA) and consider measures for relaxing
visa policy among member countries. Other major issues
on the agenda include fighting terrorism and improving
connectivity among member states. "Indian industry
would fully support the government if it comes out with
any package for our smaller neighbours since the size
of our industry and economy is large enough to accommodate
the requirements of these countries," Assocham
president Venugopal N Dhoot said.
has extended a commitment to review non-tariff barriers,
if any, and give better access to its market as part
of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA). "Our
economy, which is expected to reach a size of a trillion
dollar by March 2008, should share the fruits of growth
with the smaller members of the SAARC," Dhoot said.
reluctance to grant Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status
to India, even under the recently ratified SAFTA, is
another issue that warrants an immediate solution,"
he said. The SAARC region accounted for a mere 2.5 per
cent of India''s total foreign trade in April-October
2006. Therefore, the opening up of India''s market under
the trade agreement is not likely to have a major impact
on the domestic market, Assocham said.
from the SAARC countries amounted to only less than
a billion dollar, contributing just 0.82 per cent to
the total imports of 104 billion dollars. Other proposals
expected to be ratified at the summit include the establishment
of regional food bank and a South Asian University,
while a joint declaration would formalise entry of Afghanistan
as the eighth member of SAARC.
member countries have already exercised and agreed on
the three major issues in the ministerial and secretary
level talks earlier and a meeting of the state heads
would formalise them during the summit meeting.
the deal is finalised, the food bank will start initially
with a reserve of 241,580 tonne of food grain, which
would be gradually increased. According to the proposal,
India will contribute 153,200 tonne, Pakistan and Bangladesh
40,000 tonne each, Sri Lanka and Nepal 4,000 tonnes
each, Maldives 200 tonne and Bhutan 180 tonne of food
includes physical connectivity in terms of concrete
infrastructure projects, economic connectivity through
freer movement of goods and trade, and connectivity
of ideas and people through increased people to people
contact rather than a mere inter-governmental process.
for bringing into operations a SAARC poverty alleviation
programme by wrapping up the proposed $100 million ''SAARC
development fund'' would also be considered. Under the
proposed telemedicine network project, hospitals in
SAARC countries would be connected to the super-speciality
hospitals in India. Five observers - China, Japan, Korea,
USA and the European Union - will also attend the summit.